Belgian GP: Verstappen leads Leclerc by 0.8s in FP2

The defending champion and his nearest points challenger, Leclerc, will start the race at Spa from the back of the grid due to penalties for changing engine components.

But the Red Bull driver seemed to have the upper hand comfortably ahead of the first lap after the summer break as he was the only driver to break the 1m45 lap times.

He led Lando Norris of Leclerc and McLaren, while a run for glory for Aston Martin driver Lance Stroll propelled him to fourth ahead of Mercedes’ Carlos Sainz and Lewis Hamilton.

For the second one-hour practice session of the weekend, Verstappen came out on top in the middle of the 20-minute block in his qualifying simulation to set the benchmark for the session.

While FP1 leader Sainz had just run the fastest lap of the 4.35-mile lap on soft tires, Verstappen climbed to the top of the times on the same red-walled Pirelli rubber.

The Dutch rider posted a flyer of 1m45.507s to sit a mighty 0.862s on the simulated Leclerc lap, although fuel loads and engine modes potentially mask the real gap.

Leclerc’s session-best 1m46.369s was enough for second place ahead of Norris, Sainz and Hamilton, while outgoing Alpine driver Fernando Alonso split the Mercedes pair in seventh.

It was also Verstappen who set the tone in the first third of the session, with the Red Bull RB18 driver finishing the first gambit ahead of Sainz by 0.5s thanks to a 1m46.850s.

With wet patches at the start, only Mick Schumacher and Daniel Ricciardo started the procedure on the softs while the rest of the grid was divided between the mediums and the hards,

Only Norris had not ventured after five minutes, by which time Sainz had set the first representative lap with a 1m48.818s before Verstappen reached the summit in 1m47.699s.

With Sergio Perez climbing to third place, the top three riders were on the middle compound.

Ricciardo, meanwhile, raced as the fastest soft tire rider in fourth while Hamilton in 10th, hard runners George Russell, Sebastian Vettel, Valtteri Bottas and Nicholas Latifi backed up the order.

Leclerc was able to run the fastest after missing the high point at Les Combes before Ferrari team-mate Sainz fell to 1m47.39s despite a massive run through the gravel in the second part of the Fagnes chicane.

It happened as Verstappen tried to shake off a tear that had become lodged in his rear suspension, but once freed he plunged to the 1.46m after 10 minutes.

After qualifying, the final part of the session, usually dedicated to racing tire simulations, was disrupted by drizzle – although there were only 3 minutes left for someone (Vettel) to try the tires rain.

The slippery conditions led to many errors. Pierre Gasly, who left his AlphaTauri in FP1 for F2 driver Liam Lawson, suffered a rear slam to pull away through the long hairpin at Turn 8.

The French rider continued to roll to join before Sainz did the same at the next corner and Kevin Magnussen fled to Les Combes.

Hamilton, who had struggled with the now usual Mercedes tire warming issues to lock up at La Source, was then busy correcting a scary slam through Eau Rouge.

Norris then came off the track at Les Combes and Schumacher took to the gravel soon after, so with six minutes to go the whole field thought it over and headed for the pits.

There was a late flurry in the last minute – Yuki Tsunoda, Bottas and Schumacher on the intermediates, Stroll on the rains and the rest on the slicks.

With terms preventing any late changes, behind Russell in eighth was Ricciardo, the Australian seeking a new seat for 2023 with McLaren paying him the rest of his contract.

Perez, meanwhile, was a moderate 10th ahead of Williams’ Alex Albon and Zhou Guanyu.

Tsunoda edged Gasly ahead of Vettel, Esteban Ocon and Kevin Magnussen, with the Dane causing a red flag in FP1 when his Haas suffered an electrical fault and was brought to a standstill on track.

Bottas clawed back lost ground after his Alfa Romeo was rarely seen in FP1 to record a 20-second lap. Meanwhile, Latifi and Schumacher have completed the order.

Belgian GP: Verstappen leads Leclerc by 0.8s in FP2

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