The sole scheduled Formula 1 practice session of the Belgian Grand Prix weekend at Spa-Francorchamps was held in fully wet conditions and featured a red flag for a crash.
> Sainz leads McLaren duo
> Sargeant in mid-session shunt
> Verstappen among five not to set a time
With competitive wet running highly probable later on this weekend, the treacherous weather conditions weren’t quite enough of a deterrent as to render the session a complete washout – instead creating an initial mixture of lulls and periods of activity as drivers got a feel for the track.
But that also meant incidents, and two in quick succession came around the halfway point.
Alfa Romeo’s sophomore driver Zhou Guanyu went off at Bruxelles, nudging the advertising hoarding with his left front endplate but doing so at a low enough speed to avoid major damage.
But Williams rookie Logan Sargeant wasn’t so lucky moments later, aquaplaning off the track at the end of the Kemmel straight and tagging the wall at Les Combes.
🚩 RED FLAG 🚩
Logan Sargeant runs straight on at Les Combes
— Formula 1 (@F1) July 28, 2023
The retrieval of Sargeant’s damaged FW45 necessitated a 10-minute red flag, yet drivers were hardly lining up to log more laps once said red flag was lifted, with the rest of practice effectively reduced to a couple of on-track cameos and end-of-session practice starts.
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz ended the running as the leader courtesy of a 2m03.207s on the intermediate compound with McLaren’s Oscar Piastri six tenths of a second off and Piastri’s team-mate Lando Norris another seven tenths down.
The other Ferrari of Charles Leclerc was the quickest of those on wet tyres, just by a tenth over Red Bull’s Sergio Perez.
Sargeant’s team-mate Alex Albon had led the opening stretch of the session for Williams courtesy of the session’s very first flying lap, which was then followed by Albon going straight on at the Bus Stop chicane the next time by – with Alpine’s Pierre Gasly doing his own slide deep into the run-off at the same spot later on.
Championship leader Max Verstappen was among those drivers not to set a legal laptime, limiting himself to just a pair of out-laps.
Verstappen has been reported as taking a five-place grid penalty this weekend for going above his gearbox allowance for the season.
Though practice classification can be used to set the grid if qualifying is cancelled for whatever reason, that will definitively not be the case this weekend, as confirmed by the FIA – which was keen “to ensure that teams do not treat the first session of the weekend as a competitive session” with this possibility in mind.
The series’ governing body has also said that, with the weather situation “constantly evolving”, it will prioritise getting in a qualifying to set the grid for Sunday’s race – as opposed to the sprint sessions.
Should qualifying be impossible to hold in time, however, the FIA will set the Belgian GP grid order by the current championship rankings.
Practice 1 Results
|Pos||Name||Car||Best Time||Gap Leader|
|5||Sergio Pérez||Red Bull||2m08.24s||+5.033s|
|7||Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri-Honda RBPT||2m09.067s||+5.86s|
|9||Daniel Ricciardo||AlphaTauri-Honda RBPT||2m09.319s||+6.112s|
|11||Fernando Alonso||Aston Martin-Mercedes||2m10.283s||+7.076s|
|14||Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo-Ferrari||2m12.085s||+8.878s|
|15||Guanyu Zhou||Alfa Romeo-Ferrari||2m14.002s||+10.795s|