What the teams said – Friday in Belgium

What the teams said – Friday in Belgium

Mercedes

Bottas got his weekend off to a perfect start, fastest of all in FP1 and by a decent margin too. The same couldn’t be said for his team mate, Hamilton winding up way down the order after losing his flying lap to traffic. Roll on FP2 and interestingly, neither driver could improve on the medium-shod times once running the soft tyres. Were they being conservative with their engine modes, or genuinely struggling on the red-marked tyres? Tomorrow will tell all.

READ MORE: ‘The car wasn’t quite underneath me today’ says Hamilton as Mercedes search for gains at Spa

Lewis Hamilton – FP1: 1:48.224, P18; FP2: 1:44.544, P3

“Finding the right balance here is a big challenge. In FP1, we tried one way, and then we changed it this afternoon. The pace was quite similar – you try one option, and you are faster in the first and third sectors, but slower in the middle. And then you try the other option and it’s the opposite. So, figuring out the right balance is really tricky. It’s also tough to gain knowledge in these short sessions but we’re navigating it the best we can and at least it was dry for most of the running. Overall, it was an okay day, but I didn’t quite have the car underneath me, so we’ve got some work to do tonight to figure that out. The weather is also going to play a big role. If it does rain, you obviously want more downforce, but then if it doesn’t rain, you are a sitting duck on the straights. So we have to be very careful with the changes we make.”

Valtteri Bottas – FP1: 1:45.199, P1; FP2: 1:44.513, P2

“Everything felt pretty good out there today. As we saw from the timesheets, it’s going to be very close with Red Bull once again so we’ll look into the detail tonight and see what marginal gains we can find. The pace on both the short and the long runs was pretty decent. It’s always tricky to compare in detail from the practice sessions, but at least the feeling is good, so that is a positive start to the weekend. We looked quite fast on the straights with the wing level we ran and in the race, it’ll be important for me to be quick in sectors one and three, to make the overtakes. But then, if it rains, you want more downforce. So, session by session, we need to see how it is going to look. That decision will be key for qualifying.”

Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director

“We’ve had a pretty clean day overall. It’s often tricky on Friday here with the long lap and unpredictable weather but we’ve made good use of the sessions and have ended up with a reasonable balance. It’s hard to know quite where we stand; the circuit is very power sensitive so going up and down on modes can give big swings in lap time but the car seems to be working as it should and it looks like we’re there or thereabouts on pace. There’s a bit more to find on the balance and Lewis had some vibrations on the long run that won’t have helped but hopefully we can make some further progress with the car overnight. We’re expecting more of the same from the weather over the rest of the weekend, it’s quite hard to read more than 30 minutes into the future so planning qualifying and the race could be tricky but it’s not unusual to be in that position here.”

Red Bull

Verstappen had a topsy-turvy day – fastest of all on the hard compound tyre, he couldn’t quite match Bottas on the softs in the morning session. He was quick in the afternoon though, before losing the rear of his RB16B towards the end of the session to crash into the barriers down at Turn 7. Perez meanwhile celebrated the news of his contract extension with a solid outing, there or thereabouts in the top 10 with some time to find if he wants to be in the fight for pole tomorrow.

READ MORE: ‘A very positive start’ – Verstappen shrugs off heavy FP2 shunt after finishing Friday fastest at Spa

Max Verstappen – FP1: 1:45.363, P2; FP2: 1:44.472, P1

“I think we definitely had a positive start today but unfortunately I just lost the rear at the end of the second session, there was a bit too much oversteer to correct and I hit the wall. As a team we were quite happy with how everything was going and we did some fine tuning between FP1 and FP2. Looking ahead to tomorrow, there are of course things to take into consideration including the weather but it’s difficult to say what the track is going to be like in the wet. I think Saturday and Sunday will be similar weather to today so it will definitely be interesting. It’s also great that Checo will be with the team next year, we have a good relationship so I’m happy to continue working together to try and score a lot of points for the team for the rest of this season and of course next year.”

Sergio Perez – FP1: 1:46.127, P6; FP2: 1:45.404, P10

“The car is feeling good and I think we have strong potential for this weekend. It’s going to be interesting what happens with the weather tomorrow as that obviously affects how you configure the car but I’m looking forward to it. I think we will be in the fight and able to have a good qualifying, the pace was strong out there today and it will be interesting to see who has what when they put it all together in Q3. We collected plenty of information over the two practice sessions, we’ll sit down this evening to analyse it so we have the best package tomorrow. It’s also great to have my contract for next year with Red Bull finalised so that I can focus my energy on this season. I really enjoy being a part of this team so I’m really happy to continue for 2022 but my focus right now is on this weekend and delivering the best possible result.”

Ferrari

Leclerc has a solid opening session, despite dipping a wheel in the gravel down at Turn 7. The Monegasque wound up a credible fourth overall, defying his own expectations that the Scuderia might struggle at this track. But while he rode his luck in FP1, it deserted him in FP2 when he snaked his way out of Turn 6, losing control as he slid across the kerbs to wind up in the barriers. Sainz had a quieter day by comparison, and is one driver who may be hoping for some rain come qualifying.

READ MORE: Leclerc searching for answers after ‘tricky’ FP2 led to session-ending crash

Charles Leclerc – FP1: 1:45.818, P4; FP2: 1:46.836, P18

“We have quite a bit of work to do. FP1 was alright but FP2 was a bit more difficult. We’ve got tonight to work on the set-up of the car and hopefully we can have a better day tomorrow. I was reasonably happy with the car balance but the performance is not where we expected it to be.

“The track conditions were tricky but it was the same for everyone. It looks like it will remain like this for the rest of the weekend, so we have to get used to it. It wasn’t great to finish the first day by touching the wall, but tomorrow and Sunday will be the days that count and I will make sure to learn from my mistake.”

Carlos Sainz – FP1: 1:45.935, P5; FP2: 1:45.517, P11

“It’s great to be back, especially at a circuit like this which always gives you a great feeling in a Formula 1 car. Today I enjoyed myself. In terms of performance, however, we didn’t have the best of Fridays. We couldn’t complete a proper long run in FP2 and the short runs were also tricky with the balance of the car. We have a bit of homework to do overnight, but I’m confident we can improve and be in a better place tomorrow.

“The weather looks uncertain for Saturday and Sunday. The rain can appear anytime, as we saw today with F3 qualifying, so we’ll be prepared for any conditions.”

Alpine

Ocon spun in FP2, doing well to keep out of the barriers but wrecking his tyres in the process. As for Alonso, he was on the ragged edge on his flying laps – as seen in this incredible onboard footage – but was quick, winding up ‘best of the rest’ in fourth. The team seem well placed to build on their success last time out, although they might need some luck if they are to find their way back to the podium this weekend.

Esteban Ocon – FP1: 1:46.497, P9; FP2: 1:45.302, P7

“Firstly, it’s great to be back in the car after the summer break. Today has been busy and chaotic in all the ways possible with the weather conditions. It kept changing throughout the day, meaning we had to adapt to both damp and dry conditions. It was quite hard at the beginning as some areas were damp while some parts of the track were completely normal. I had a spin in FP2, but I was just pushing a bit to find the limit and it was slippery out there, but fortunately there was no damage done! Overall, though, we look quite competitive with similar characteristics to our performance last year, which is good news. Qualifying is tomorrow and that’s when it matters.”

Fernando Alonso – FP1: 1:46.612, P10; FP2: 1:44.953, P4

“It was an interesting Friday for sure. We were looking at the sky all morning and afternoon as it wasn’t a completely dry circuit to start both of the sessions. This impacted our day a little bit, but I think we have a good baseline for tomorrow. The weather will be the thing for us all to watch as it’s looking slightly unknown heading into qualifying. If it’s dry, I’m quite confident of a strong result.”

Davide Brivio, Racing Director

“It’s good to be back racing after the break, and Spa delivered its usual surprises with the weather. It’s been a challenging day with the conditions as both sessions began on a damp track before drying. From our point of view, it’s been a good day and we did our best with the conditions. We’ve collected some good information and that gives us some work to do to make further improvements for tomorrow. Like today, we will keep trying to guess the weather and we’re certainly expecting some rain both for tomorrow and Sunday. We will keep working and see what happens over the next two days. For now, we’re happy with our Friday’s work!”

AlphaTauri

Mixed fortunes for the AlphaTauri boys in FP1, with Gasly looking quick from the off on both the harder and soft compound tyres. Tsunoda though was one of two drivers to spin at Turn 1 as he struggled for tyre warm-up thanks to the tricky track conditions and wound up down the order. Come the afternoon session and Gasly was once again right up there, while Tsunoda complained about the handling of his AT02. The rookie might be up late looking at the data tonight.

READ MORE: Gasly says AlphaTauri in ‘best shape possible’ after spending Friday in top 5 at Spa

Pierre Gasly – FP1: 1:45.699, P3; FP2: 1:44.965, P5

“I’m really happy to be back racing again after the summer break, particularly at such a great track like Spa. It was important for us to have the best start possible this weekend and I think that’s what we’ve done today, finishing P3 and P5. We know the areas we need to focus on going into tomorrow, as of course there’s always some extra speed to find. The weather is very interchangeable here in Spa, we’ve seen it today with different conditions, and we may have rain tomorrow, so we need to be prepared for that as well. The baseline we have seems to work and we’re hoping we can confirm that everything is working well in qualifying tomorrow.”

Yuki Tsunoda – FP1: 1:46.928, P15; FP2: 1:45.758, P12

“My main target this weekend is consistency and to build up the pace in the car across the practice sessions. I think so far this has gone well and we’ve been able to adapt across the sessions to improve our performance. As a team, you can see the pace is there, so I just need to continue improving and gaining confidence ahead of qualifying tomorrow. The weather changes here are fairly traditional for Spa, it’s definitely quite difficult to drive, but I have some great memories from this circuit over the last few years and I’m excited to be driving here again, especially in a Formula 1 car.”

Jonathan Eddolls, Chief Race Engineer

“We’ve been faced with the usual Spa conditions – cold, damp and difficult – but we’ve come away with two fairly dry sessions, so we’ve managed to get some good running in today. For Yuki, it was extremely important that he got up to speed, as it’s his first time driving here in a Formula 1 car. It was a case of putting the lap time together, as well as building up his confidence in the car and he made good steps between FP1 and FP2. On Pierre’s car we conducted some aero tests during the morning session and were able to gather some important data there, as well as having a good setup direction which we were then able to develop going into the afternoon. I think on the timesheets you can see that we’ve had a fairly good performance here today, particularly on the short run, and we’re pleased with that so far. Due to the two red flags this afternoon, no one really managed to get any long-run data. However, on the few laps we were able to complete, we think that it’s the area we need to focus on the most ahead of Sunday’s race.”

Aston Martin

Stroll is carrying a grid penalty into Sunday’s race, earned last time out in Hungary and as such will want to try and find as much one-lap pace as he can to limit the damage come qualifying. Sixth in FP2 was a solid result and bodes well for the Canadian going into the weekend. With Vettel in the top 10 in both sessions, it certainly looks like Aston Martin are right in the fight here at the front of the midfield.

Sebastian Vettel – FP1: 1:46.177, P7; FP2: 1:45.336, P8

“It is good to be back after the break and I felt comfortable in the car straight away. It was not easy to complete a lot of laps because of the conditions and the two red flags this afternoon, but we were able to collect some important data. I think there is more to come from me and the car, and we know what to work on overnight to be ready for qualifying. I think the changeable weather is here to stay, so reading the conditions and being on the right tyre at the right time will be key. Wet weather can always mix up the grid a bit, so hopefully we can capitalise on any opportunities this weekend.”

Lance Stroll – FP1: 1:46.649, P11; FP2: 1:45.180, P6

“It is great to be back at Spa. I love coming here because it is such a special track. We got through our programme today to complete a good number of laps and I was comfortable in the car. It has been a strong start for us, but the damp conditions out there show it could be quite unpredictable on Saturday and Sunday. The weather being a bit of an unknown is challenging, but that makes it more exciting for us drivers. I am looking forward to getting back in the car tomorrow and building on today’s work.”

McLaren

With McLaren rarely showing their full hand on Friday, it is hard to decipher where their two drivers are in the pecking order. Norris had the better results in both sessions, and will be expected to move forward come tomorrow but, in a congested midfield, Ricciardo might have to work harder if he is to make the top-10 shootout.

Daniel Ricciardo – FP1: 1:46.683, P12; FP2: 1:46.118, P15

“Firstly, good to be back out there. It’s sometimes a little hard after a holiday but it was really nice to be back in the car. I enjoyed it, and I think this track is fun as well, so that helps me get excited. Our performance on the soft tyre wasn’t great but I think we have a good understanding why, so I wouldn’t say I’m concerned about today’s times. It was pretty decent on the hard.

“We made some steps with set up, so we’ll try to make a bit more of a step tonight and learn a bit more. It was a steady day. We avoided the rain for the most part, so we’ll see what happens tomorrow.”

Lando Norris – FP1: 1:46.336, P8; FP2: 1:45.386, P9

“I’m happy with the first day back. Obviously, everyone’s getting back into it a little bit, but it was a positive day. We made some good improvements with the car, we tried some things between sessions and I think we have a good direction to explore overnight so we can go into FP3 and qualifying with a slightly better car. It’s been tricky, especially with the weather, but I’m confident that we have a good enough car to bring the challenge to the competition tomorrow and get a good result in qualifying.”

Andrea Stella, Racing Director

“Overall, we’ve had a positive Friday, even though the day was disrupted by red flags and a little bit of rain at the start of each session. It looks like we’re in the midfield mix as usual, and tonight we’ll be analysing the data we’ve gathered to make sure we optimise all the details to be as competitive as possible in qualifying and in the race.

“Spa is always an interesting and challenging circuit. You have the weather, the low downforce set-up and some very high-speed corners that put a lot of load on the car. It’s a tough place to race but we’re looking to score good points this weekend.”

Alfa Romeo

It was a less than ideal start to the weekend for Raikkonen, who spun on cold tyres towards the start of FP1. Worse was to come for the Finn though, when he managed to slide into the wall at a greasy pit lane entry, damaging his front wing in the process. He at least had a quieter time of it in FP2 as did his team mate, but on current form they could well find themselves fighting to get out of Q1 tomorrow.

Kimi Raikkonen – FP1: 1:48.125, P17; FP2: 1:45.967, P14

“It was a better day than we thought: it looked like FP2 would be a wet session, but then it was dry and we could run. We made a step forward throughout the day but there’s still work to be done. Let’s see what weather we get in qualifying, how we can improve overnight and find out how well we do tomorrow. In mixed conditions, everything can happen.”

Antonio Giovinazzi – FP1: 1:46.755, P13; FP2: 1:45.789, P13

“We had a smooth and positive day, a good way to come back from the summer break. I am happy with the work we did: we only did a few laps on high fuel, so we don’t have a lot of data for Sunday, but we have tomorrow still – and we have to take the weather into account. We were expecting rain this afternoon, but we ran in the dry instead. We’ll see what we get tomorrow: the target is to get to Q2 and see what we can do from there.”

Williams

Both the Williams boys were involved in incidents in FP1, with Russell blocked by Stroll through Eau Rouge in the early stages. Latifi though was the guilty party when he seemingly unknowingly impeded Hamilton in the final sector when the Mercedes man was on a flying lap. The Canadian did look quick though on his own fast laps though, even topping the timing sheet at one stage. Although they were both bumped down the order as the session progressed, there was much to be optimistic about for the Grove-based team.

READ MORE: Williams boss Capito hints team will keep Latifi for 2022

George Russell – FP1: 1:46.772, P14; FP2: 1:46.665, P17

“I am happy to be back; it has been four weeks since I last drove and so it was great to get straight back into it. I think we have been very fortunate today with the weather, we got the driest parts of the day in both sessions which has been good for us and for the fans. Keeping the tyre temperatures alive and maintaining confidence in the wet parts of the track is going to be really tricky if we continue to get mixed conditions.

“We have a lot to improve overnight as I think we are a little off the pace, but we have some ideas up our sleeves and so we’ll work through those. There is always a compromise and never anything that will just give you performance, so there will be some interesting conversations to see which direction we will go.”

Nicholas Latifi – FP1: 1:47.101, P16; FP2: 1:46.198, P16

“It’s great to be back behind the wheel at such a great track to drive a Formula One car. It’s been a bit of a disrupted day with the mixed conditions, so I think we still have some more pace to find. I’m happy with our low fuel pace, but it was harder to gauge high fuel with the red flags interrupting the session, although everyone will be in a similar position with that. We have some work to do overnight and the unpredictable weather can make decisions more challenging. I don’t particularly mind what the weather brings tomorrow, this track is always fun in dry conditions, but the rain provides more opportunities which we need to make the most of.”

Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance

“Although it was cool and cloudy all day, the practice sessions were mostly dry and the biggest limitation to the day’s running were the red flags late in FP2. These disruptions meant that a lot of teams didn’t do much high fuel running during the day.

“We got through most of our programme and both drivers were reasonably happy during the day. Understanding the compromises that need to be made to get the best overall lap time is often the biggest challenge at this circuit and although we haven’t got it quite right yet, we know what we need to do tonight to get the right balance.

“The weather looks likely to play its part over the next couple of days with both qualifying and the race susceptible to rain. We will be looking to take advantage of any opportunity which that presents.”

Haas

The Haas boys kept their sessions clean despite the tricky, changeable conditions but didn’t have the pace to challenge the rest of the back markers. Mazepin got the better of his team mate in both sessions, which should give him confidence heading into tomorrow, with Schumacher still holding a commanding head to head lead when it comes to qualifying. The German is also sporting a special tribute helmet this weekend which is well worth a view.

Mick Schumacher – FP1: 1:49.059, P20; FP2: 1:47.529, P20

“It was definitely good to be back on track after the summer break, especially to a track like here, it’s special. I was hoping that it would stay wet but unfortunately the track dried up just as we were going out, but nonetheless, we learned a lot and we have a few ideas of what we want to try tomorrow. We’ll see what the weather does – today was supposed to be a completely wet day and it ended up being dry, so we’ll see what to expect for tomorrow.”

Nikita Mazepin – FP1: 1:48.705, P19; FP2: 1:47.335, P19

“The car felt good. The conditions today both times started off wet but were not wet enough for us to run on intermediates and we lost a bit of track time, but the car feels good in the dry conditions and I’m very much looking forward to tomorrow. The balance isn’t the easiest to drive but we’re not very far off our perfect balance in the car today. It was a challenging day but still enjoyable to do Eau Rouge flat out and get over 320 kph down the main straight, which was cool.”

Pirelli

Mario Isola, Head of F1 and Car Racing

“We experienced typically variable weather at Spa, and that seems set to remain the case for the rest of the weekend! If it rains, it will be important for teams to consider the crossover point from wet weather tyres to slicks and vice versa. The track remained tricky all day and we saw drivers struggling to find a consistent lap time in these mixed conditions, which is why it’s also quite hard to get an idea of the true performance gaps at the moment. Nonetheless, all the tyres apart from the full wet were sampled, with the teams able to collect relevant data.”

HIGHLIGHTS: All the key moments from FP2 as Verstappen and Leclerc end the day in the barriers

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