Monday, May 27, 2024

Sainz Leads Wet First Practice at Spa Ahead of Piastri and Norris

Carlos Sainz Jr. was the fastest driver in the first and only practice session of the Belgian Grand Prix Sprint weekend. The session took place in heavy rain at Spa-Francorchamps, with Sainz leading the way in his Ferrari, followed by McLaren F1 Team duo Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris.

The practice session was crucial for the drivers as it was the only opportunity to get a feel for the track conditions before the qualifying session later in the day. Initially, only six drivers set a lap time within the first ten minutes, with Alex Albon eventually posting the fastest time even after suffering a lock-up at the bus stop chicane.

However, the rain intensified, and all drivers chose to stay in the pit lane, waiting for an improvement in weather conditions. After the conditions didn’t improve but stabilised, some drivers, including Sainz, ventured back onto the track. Sainz set the fastest lap on intermediate tires, outpacing Piastri’s McLaren by over half a second.

The weekend saw its first red flag when Williams Racing’s Logan Sargeant crashed into the barrier at Les Combes. As the rain intensified during the red flag period, no drivers opted to continue running once the session resumed. This meant Sainz’s lap time of 2:03.207s remained the fastest, with Piastri in second place, trailing by 0.585 seconds.

Credit: Francois Nel/Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool

Lando Norris secured the third position, more than six-tenths behind his teammate Piastri, while Charles Leclerc finished in fourth place, ahead of Sérgio Perez.

Albon secured the sixth-fastest time for Williams, with Yuki Tsunoda putting in a good lap to go seventh fastest. The Scuderia AlphaTauri driver survived a wobbly moment at Eau Rouge earlier in the session too. Kevin Magnussen was the quickest of the two Haas F1 Team drivers in the session and finished in eighth place.

Daniel Ricciardo, who continued his comeback with AlphaTauri, took ninth, followed by Nico Hülkenberg. Fernando Alonso was the lead driver for Aston Martin Armaco Cognisant F1 Team, finishing in eleventh place, after he left it late to set a lap.

Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team brought several upgrades for the weekend, including a new sidepod and floor, and tested a number different rear wing configurations on both cars. However, they didn’t have much running, as Lewis Hamilton and George Russell finished in twelfth and thirteenth places, respectively.

Zhou Gunayu put in the fifteenth fastest lap time and also managed to survive a trip through the gravel and a close encounter with the barrier at Turn 8.

The slowest driver on track was Sargeant, but he managed to finish ahead of four drivers who didn’t set a lap. Them four were Lance Stroll, Pierre Gasly, Esteban Ocon, and the championship leader, Max Verstappen.

With qualifying approaching and more rain forecasted, it will certainly be an interesting session with some drivers having hardly any running in the conditions in practice. However, safety will be paramount for the FIA. They hope to get the qualifying session underway, but if they can’t and the conditions aren’t safe enough for the drivers, the grid will be set on Drivers’ Championship order, meaning Verstappen would be on pole position alongside his teammate Perez, with Ricciardo and Sargeant on the back row.

1 55 Carlos Sainz FERRARI 2:03.207 9
2 81 Oscar Piastri MCLAREN MERCEDES 2:03.792 +0.585s 4
3 4 Lando Norris MCLAREN MERCEDES 2:04.484 +1.277s 4
4 16 Charles Leclerc FERRARI 2:08.148 +4.941s 8
5 11 Sergio Perez RED BULL RACING HONDA RBPT 2:08.240 +5.033s 5
6 23 Alexander Albon WILLIAMS MERCEDES 2:08.394 +5.187s 5
7 22 Yuki Tsunoda ALPHATAURI HONDA RBPT 2:09.067 +5.860s 8
8 20 Kevin Magnussen HAAS FERRARI 2:09.229 +6.022s 7
9 3 Daniel Ricciardo ALPHATAURI HONDA RBPT 2:09.319 +6.112s 7
10 27 Nico Hulkenberg HAAS FERRARI 2:10.042 +6.835s 8
11 14 Fernando Alonso ASTON MARTIN ARAMCO MERCEDES 2:10.283 +7.076s 4
12 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 2:10.299 +7.092s 7
13 63 George Russell MERCEDES 2:10.475 +7.268s 7
14 77 Valtteri Bottas ALFA ROMEO FERRARI 2:12.085 +8.878s 9
15 24 Zhou Guanyu ALFA ROMEO FERRARI 2:14.002 +10.795s 8
16 2 Logan Sargeant WILLIAMS MERCEDES 4
18 10 Pierre Gasly ALPINE RENAULT 2
19 31 Esteban Ocon ALPINE RENAULT 2
20 1 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING HONDA RBPT 2