Kicking off Saturday, Valtteri Bottas posted the fastest lap in the final practice session for the Belgian Grand Prix. Lapping the famous Spa-Francorchamps at 1:49:465, Bottas pipped Ricciardo to the top spot by 2 and a half tenths. But Hamilton could have taken the top spot.
Yesterday it finished one a piece between the Mercedes boys with Rosberg topping FP1 and Hamilton topping FP2. But come this morning it was neither of them showing the field the pace ahead of qualifying.
The final free practice session kicked off with Jules Bianchi venturing out on the intermediate tyres. Rain had fallen over the morning, leaving a damp track. And at the start of the session, the track temperature was just 16 degrees Celsius, along with a 40% chance of rain falling during the session. Whilst carrying out their installation laps, some drivers opted to head out on the full wets and Button was taking his lap cautiously to avoid any potential damage to his car.
The first timed lap was not posted until the 13th minute when Andre Lotterer went fastest with a 2 minute 7 second lap. The experienced endurance racer may have taken the top spot, but his Caterham was soon pushed down the order by both Marussia’s.
After the three returned to their respective garages, it was quiet on track with no-one venturing out until the halfway point.
Come the 30th minute, Esteban Gutierrez came out onto the track using the medium compound, dry tyres now that the track had dried out. Although he was taking it carefully in the early stages, his first timed lap on the medium tyres was 1 and a half seconds faster than Bianchi’s earlier 2 minute 1 second lap.
On the other hand, Gutierrez’s second timed lap on the medium compound tyres was another 4 seconds faster. Opening the flood gates for drivers to hit the track.
Now most of the field were carrying out timed laps on the dry tyres, Gutierrez’s fastest time was being pushed further and further down the order.
Kyvat appeared to have shown some serious pace in his Toro Rosso as he took a couple of seconds off the previous fastest time. Especially when Felipe Massa was unable to beat it. However when Massa’s team-mate, Bottas, cam around, he posted a 1:51:583. A lap time no one was getting close to.
Eventually Rosberg brought his Mercedes to a close second but it was Fernando Alonso who went P1 ahead of the Finn. Alonso went purple in both the first and final sectors on the lap that took him to the top.
Even Alonso’s fastest time would not stay top for long when the Silver Arrows flew. Rosberg initially went P1 with a 1:50:023, which was over a second faster than Fernando’s lap. But Hamilton wanted the top spot for himself and demoted Nico to second place by just 1 thousandth of a second.
Going into the final 10 minutes of the season, there was still time for drivers to switch from the medium compound to the softs for a few qualifying simulation laps. As you would expect, the soft tyres were allowing the drivers to go even faster and the top spot changed once more.
Raikkonen was the first man to go fastest on the soft tyres, even if it was only by two tenths of a second to Hamilton’s earlier time. However, that was an improvement of over two seconds for the Finn.
When Hamilton came around to complete a lap on the soft tyres, he managed to record an identical lap time to Kimi, however they were both pushed down by Bottas and Rosberg. Before Ricciardo slotted into second after the chequered flag fell.
With the chequered flag waving, the order stood with Bottas on top, followed by Ricciardo. Some drivers were still carrying out laps at this point but most opted to pit or were unable to improve on their position.
Hamilton was one of the drivers to pit with the flag waving. But if he had completed that lap he would have gone fastest overall, after a purple middle sector.
If conditions remain the same for qualifying, the Williams and Ferrari could cause a challenge to the Mercedes. However it is still more probable that a Silver Arrow will secure pole.
|2||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:49.733||0.268||9|
|11||11||Sergio Perez||Force India-Mercedes||1:50.592||1.127||12|
|13||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:50.814||1.349||10|
|14||27||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:50.866||1.401||11|