It was a Ferrari one-two in the final 60 minutes of practice ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix. Kimi Raikkonen lead the Ferrari duo by claiming a new track record, putting him fastest by a small margin. His teammate Sebastian Vettel had a very small advantage on third-placed Lewis Hamilton.
Hamilton looked strong throughout practice yesterday and will definitely be one to watch for qualifying later on today. But Raikkonen has come back from the summer break with a point to prove. Having recently signed another one year contract with Ferrari, seeing the Finn in the second Ferrari seat until the end of 2018, Raikkonen has returned to the track proving to the doubters why he should have been resigned. His 1:43.986 was unrivalled by any of the other drivers when the qualifying simulations on the ultra soft tyres occurred at the end of the session. The closest driver to him was teammate Vettel who was 0.197 seconds.
Nothing split Vettel and Hamilton, who crossed the line with lap times 0.001 seconds apart. It will be a close duel between the trio for the front row later on. However, Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas has looked to be off the pace throughout the practice sessions. With Hamilton hot in the fight for pole position, Bottas could place the second Mercedes no higher than fifth, behind the Red Bull of Max Verstappen, 1.314 seconds off Raikkonen’s pace and 1.2 seconds off his teammate.
Daniel Ricciardo had taken the top of the timing board as the first of the top six to set his qualifying simulation lap on the ultra soft tyres, but ultimately ended up sixth. He was only 0.06 seconds off the time set by Bottas.
Jolyon Palmer, Sergio Perez, Carlos Sainz Jr and Fernando Alonso wrapped up the top ten, with Alonso 2.144 seconds off the pace at the front of the field. The mid field was close throughout the session, with seventh position changing hands frequently throughout the 60 minutes. It will be a tight battle in Q2 to see which four cars will make it into the top ten shoot out.
However, it will not be a good qualifying session for home-racer Stoffel Vandoorne. After taking a 35 place drop for the race due to putting Honda’s new specification of engine in his McLaren at the beginning of the race weekend, an abnomaly in the data has forced the Belgian driver to revert back to the old specification, meaning he now has a 65 place drop for his home race. With more bad news from Honda, speculation as to whether on not there will be any Honda powered cars next season still remains to be seen.
A hydraulic issue saw Marcus Ericsson in the garage until ten minutes before the session ended. He completed only 6 laps with the slowest time of a 1:48.300. Daniil Kvyat’s session ended early when a complete power loss saw him pull his car up on the Kemmel Straight.
Along with Vandoorne’s 65 place grid drop, Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein pick up five place grid drops for changing their gear box. Felipe Massa – who had a big crash that forced the team to change his chassis yesterday, subsequently forcing him to sit out all of the practice sessions – may incur a penalty ahead of qualifying as he is currently under investigation for speeding under double waved yellow flags.