Sebastian Vettel went quickest in opening practice for the Belgian Grand Prix, edging Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen by just over a tenth of a second, with championship leader Lewis Hamilton three tenths off the pace in third place.
As the first half hour of the 90-minute session came to a close Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas rose to the top of the order with a time of 1:44.998s, set on soft tyres. Hamilton then moved ahead of that mark by more three tenths of a second and that time then stood as his best for the remainder of the session.
Vettel’s P1 time came just before the hour mark and he edged ahead with a soft-tyre time of 1:44.358s. Verstappen then put in an excellent lap to splitting the titles rivals, running 0.151 behind Vettel and a similar margin ahead of Hamilton.
There was less to be happy about on the other side of the Red Bull garage, however, as Daniel Ricciardo spent most of the session out of his car as his worked to resolve an engine issue. It was eventually fixed and in the final minutes of the session the Australian clambered to sixth place on the timesheet.
That left him just behind Kimi Räikkönen in the second Ferrari and Bottas, who took fifth place at the start of a weekend on which the Finn will take a race day grid drop due to engine changes.
Behind Ricciardo, Esteban Ocon finished in seventh place for the new Racing Point Force India team. The Frenchman finished almost two tenths clear of Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg who, like Bottas, will take an engine-related grid drop on Sunday.
Ninth place in the session was taken by Sergio Perez in the second Racing Point Force India, while Carlos Sainz took tenth spot with a time of 1:46.210.
Elsewhere, McLaren test driver Lando Norris made his grand prix weekend debut with the team, driving in place Fernando Alonso, who earlier this month announced he will retire from F1 at the end of the season, with Sainz taking his McLaren seat.
Norris finished in P18 in his first practice outing, 3.006s off the pace but just under a tenth quicker than team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne, who suffered brake issues early in the session.
2018 Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix – Free Practice 1
1 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 19 1:44.358
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 20 1:44.509 0.151
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 22 1:44.676 0.318
4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 17 1:44.718 0.360
5 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 25 1:44.724 0.366
6 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 4 1:45.558 1.200
7 Esteban Ocon Racing Point Force India 22 1:45.786 1.428
8 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 19 1:45.951 1.593
9 Sergio Perez Racing Point Force India 21 1:46.169 1.811
10 Carlos Sainz Renault 19 1:46.210 1.852
11 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso 25 1:46.300 1.942
12 Romain Grosjean Haas 20 1:46.387 2.029
13 Charles Leclerc Sauber 20 1:46.554 2.196
14 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 19 1:46.557 2.199
15 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso 23 1:46.932 2.574
16 Lance Stroll Williams 25 1:46.965 2.607
17 Kevin Magnussen Haas 21 1:47.012 2.654
18 Lando Norris McLaren 26 1:47.364 3.006
19 Sergey Sirotkin Williams 23 1:47.367 3.009
20 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 13 1:47.452 3.094