Belgian GP FP1 Report: Hamilton & Bottas Present a Tale of Contrasting Fortunes for Mercedes F1

Published 08/27/2021, 6:31 AM EDT
Formula One F1 – Belgian Grand Prix – Spa-Francorchamps, Spa, Belgium – August 27, 2021 Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas during practice REUTERS/Johanna Geron


Formula 1 is back after the 4-week haul citing summer break, as Valtteri Bottas clinched an early advantage by finishing P1 out of the first practice session of the Belgian GP.

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Meanwhile, his teammate, Lewis Hamilton endured a tough session after opting for a high-downforce set-up to his Mercedes. The Briton struggled with straight-line speed, but Valtteri clocked better lap times, yet far from Red Bull’s pace over long runs.

Max Verstappen managed to keep himself close to the leader of the session, with Pierre Gasly closing out the top 3. Both the Ferrari drivers looked significantly stronger than McLaren, as Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz signed off the session by securing P4 and P5.

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How the F1 session unfolded at Belgian GP

Spa welcomed F1 to a hazy and drizzly morning, which led to most of the teams remaining hesitant against letting their cars out of the garage. However, just over 4 minutes into the session, Ferrari drivers joined the track on Intermediate tires.

Formula One F1 – Belgian Grand Prix – Spa-Francorchamps, Spa, Belgium – August 27, 2021 Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr. during practice REUTERS/Johanna Geron

Most parts of the circuit were barely wet or even damp. However, the fact that the main straight was damp forced the stewards into continuing the session on intermediate tires.

But, with the sun soon peeping out, the Stewards soon lifted the restriction as well. Hence, 8 minutes into the session, Norris was the first driver to join the track on a set of medium tires.

Formula One F1 – Belgian Grand Prix – Spa-Francorchamps, Spa, Belgium – August 27, 2021 Red Bull’s Max Verstappen during practice REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

With the kerbs most likely holding water, Norris initially opted to stay away from them, as he clocked a rather slow lap time of 1:50:191. Soon after, Sebastian Vettel pipped Norris to go P1 with a 1:39:324.

However, the positions pretty much settled by the time FP1 arrived at its halfway point. Verstappen led the pack with a 1:46:423, around 0.8s ahead of his teammate, Sergio Perez.

Qualifying runs

With clouds returning over the circuit, most of the teams rushed their cars onto the track on soft tires, fearing they might not witness a dry session anymore over the weekend. The mixed weather meant that the qualifying runs showed up unusually during FP1.

Formula One F1 – Belgian Grand Prix – Spa-Francorchamps, Spa, Belgium – August 27, 2021 Red Bull’s Sergio Perez and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen during practice REUTERS/Johanna Geron

Bottas clocked an impressive 1:45:199 on a set of soft tires, as he moved up to P1. Verstappen pushed his Red Bull only to fall short by 0.16s, slotting himself into P2.

Spins and crashes

Kimi Raikkonen started off the proceedings, as he ended up spinning around the exit of turn 1, early in the session. Moments later, Tsunoda, too, joined the Finn and spun his AlphaTauri around the very same exit on a set of hard tires.

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The Japanese driver also ended up blocking Perez, who was then exiting the pit lane. However, with more than enough time in hand, the Mexican waited patiently, as Tsunoda backed his car and kept going.

Formula One F1 – Belgian Grand Prix – Spa-Francorchamps, Spa, Belgium – August 27, 2021 Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen during practice REUTERS/Johanna Geron

A double-waved yellow flag sign showed up, and the reason was yet again Raikkonen. The Alfa Romeo driver had a bizarre incident at the pit lane entry, as he ended up clipping his car around the narrow barriers.

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Overall, this has been an impressive start to the race weekend at the Belgian GP. And FP1 could well be the only dry session of the weekend, as more rains are in the offing. So, with just 150 minutes left to go for the second practice session, will the rain gods plan to show up and cause more chaos?

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Rohit Kumar

1150 articles

Rohit Kumar is an F1 author at EssentiallySports. He has been an ardent follower of the racing series since 2007, with his love for the sport coinciding with his love for Kimi Raikkonen. He is also an ardent follower of Sebastian Vettel and Aston Martin Racing.

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