Sebastian Vettel outpaced team-mate Charles Leclerc by two tenths of a second to head a Ferrari one-two in the opening practice session for this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix.
Ferrari, which won here last year courtesy of Vettel, are again tipped as potential winners of this race and four-time champion Vettel established the team’s credentials midway through the morning session at Spa-Francorchamps, edging out Leclerc after the Monegasque racer had earlier displaced Red Bull’s Max Verstappen from top spot.
Vettel’s 1:44.574 was 0.210 clear of Leclerc’s best time and both Ferrari drivers ended the session over a second clear of the Mercedes pairing of Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton.
Bottas, who was yesterday confirmed for another year with Mercedes in 2020, was the quicker of the two Silver Arrows drivers, with the Finn posting a best time of 1:45.882 to finish in fifth place 1.308s off Vettel’s pace.
Hamilton ended the 90 minutes just eight hundredths of a second behind his team-mate in sixth with a best lap of 1:45.973 but it was a far from perfect outing for the championship leader as he grappled with pedal issues, telemetry problems and handling issues.
Mercedes’ difficulties in the opening session left the door open to Red Bull Racing to challenge Ferrari and both Max Verstappen and new team-mate Alexander Albon took the opportunity.
Verstappen took third place in the session but the Dutchman was still over nine tenths of a second behind Vettel. Albon, meanwhile, impressed on his first outing for his new team, finishing just eight hundredths of a second behind Verstappen and three tenths of a second ahead of Bottas.
Racing Point, who are expected to announce the retention of Sergio Pérez for 2020 later today, made a good start to the weekend at Spa – a track at which it traditionally performs well.
Lance Stroll, using an uprated Mercedes power unit available to all of the manufacturers customers, finished as best of the rest in seventh place despite an early scare with part of the engine cover of his car became dislodged.
Pérez, meanwhile, took ninth place, with the Racing Points being split by Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo. Tenth place in the session went to McLaren’s Carlos Sainz.
Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg, who will be replaced at the team at the end of this season by Esteban Ocon, finished in P11 ahead of the second McLaren of Lando Norris.
Elsewhere, Pierre Gasly, making his first appearance back with Toro Rosso after replaced at Red Bull Racing by Albon, finished in P18, three tenths of a second off team-mate Daniil Kvyat who was using an upgraded Spec 4 Honda power unit.
2019 FIA Formula One Belgian Grand Prix – Free Practice 1
1 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 20 1:44.574
2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 20 1:44.788 0.214
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull 18 1:45.507 0.933
4 Alex Albon Red Bull 19 1:45.584 1.010
5 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 25 1:45.882 1.308
6 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 16 1:45.973 1.399
7 Lance Stroll Racing Point 16 1:46.198 1.624
8 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 23 1:46.426 1.852
9 Sergio Perez Racing Point 22 1:46.433 1.859
10 Carlos Sainz McLaren 20 1:46.557 1.983
11 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 23 1:46.669 2.095
12 Lando Norris McLaren 19 1:46.670 2.096
13 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo 20 1:47.024 2.450
14 Romain Grosjean Haas 18 1:47.176 2.602
15 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo 22 1:47.333 2.759
16 Kevin Magnussen Haas 21 1:47.488 2.914
17 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 20 1:47.636 3.062
18 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso 26 1:47.968 3.394
19 Nicholas Latifi Williams 24 1:48.784 4.210
20 Robert Kubica Williams 24 1:48.966 4.392