Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel has edged out Max Verstappen in the opening practice session of the Belgian Grand Prix at the famous Spa-Francorchamps.
Formula 1 returned to action following an eventful summer break and title rivals Ferrari and Mercedes both introduced upgraded engines.
Vettel was top of the timesheets for the first time in Practice One this season with a best time of 1m44.358s to gain a crucial advantage over Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes.
The Ferrari-Mercedes battle at the front was interrupted by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who was second-fastest ahead of championship leader Hamilton. Hamilton was three-tenths slower than Vettel with Kimi Räikkönen and teammate Valtteri Bottas just behind.
Bottas’ weekend has been compromised by a big engine penalty for exceeding his power unit limit for the season. Renault’s Nico Hülkenberg, who finished the session eighth, is also set to start the race from the back of the grid with a similarly penalty.
Daniel Ricciardo made a low-key return to action for Red Bull as engine problems restricted his mileage to one timed lap at the end of the session. It was enough to put him sixth behind Bottas.
McLaren’s Fernando Alonso sat out the opening session while the team trialed British youngster Lando Norris as they continue to evaluate their options for next season. Norris enjoyed an accomplished F1 practice debut and finished fractionally faster than team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne on slower tyres. Vandoorne’s session was curtailed by reliability problems and he finished with the slowest time.
Although technically a ‘new’ team, Force India returned following their change in ownership and enjoyed an encouraging start to the weekend, with Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez seventh and ninth-fastest respectively.