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F1 Grand Prix of Belgium - Practice & Qualifying SPA, BELGIUM - JULY 28: Carlos Sainz of Spain driving (55) the Ferrari SF-23 in the rain during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Belgium at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on July 28, 2023 in Spa, Belgium.

Sainz ahead of McLaren duo in rain hampered FP1 at Belgian Grand Prix

Drivers will only get one hour of practice to get their set-ups right ahead of an action-packed sprint race weekend

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Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz finished at the top ahead of McLaren duo Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri in a rain hampered FP1 at the Belgian Grand Prix.

Alex Albon, Williams, Belgian GP, Belgian Grand Prix, Formula 1
Albon was the first to head out (Image Credit: @F1 on Twitter)

Drivers will be desperate to get out on track as this is the only practice session of the weekend. Teams will only have one hour to configure their set-ups before the rest of the sprint weekend.

However, conditions at the start of the session are wet. Therefore, drivers will not be able to get any dry running during practice. Although the forecast for this weekend has it to rain all weekend for the Belgian Grand Prix.

Before practice even started, BBC reporter Andrew Benson reported that it has been agreed that the order of this session will not determine the grid if qualifying cannot run later on.

Drivers, especially George Russell have called for the FIA to cancel the Belgian Grand Prix if the rain get too heavy for the drivers’ safety.

Lights out

The lights went green and only one driver went straight out, which was Williams driver Alex Albon on the intermediate tyre. The Thai driver’s teammate Logan Sargeant would follow him out a minute later.

Both Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell opted to go out of the pitlane on the wet compound tyre – along with both Alfa Romeo and AlphaTauri drivers.

Albon would be the first driver to set a laptime in FP1. The Williams driver set a time of a 2:08.394 on the intermediate tyre. Lewis Hamilton would find himself 1.9 seconds behind the Thai driver on the wet compound tyre.

Conditions were very tricky out there – shown by Albon. The Thai driver locked up into the bus stop chicane, going straight ahead and just avoiding the barriers.

Conditions getting very tricky

Since Albon’s lock up, AlphaTauri driver Yuki Tsunoda had a snap of oversteer going up Eau Rouge. The Japanese driver managed to save the car and avoid the barriers. This was an indication that the track is even too wet for the wet compound tyre.

Therefore, all drivers stayed in the pitlane until Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz went out on track with 43 minutes to go. The Ferrari driver was followed out by former teammate Lando Norris. Both drivers went out on the wet compound tyre.

Sainz set a time of a 2:09.081 – just under seven tenths off Albon’s time at the top.

An interesting site came from Norris’ car as the Briton opted to go for the intermediate tyre along with his teammate Oscar Piastri. Both Alpine drivers Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly also went out of the pitlane on the intermediate tyre.

However, Gasly would make the same mistake as Albon did, locking up heading towards the bus stop chicane, proving how difficult it was to drive on the intermediate tyre.

Carlos Sainz, Ferrari, Formula 1
Sainz was the first driver to head back out on track (Image Credit: @F1 on Twitter)
Plan for qualifying

With the rain being present, uncertainty was taking place on how qualifying would run. During the session, a statement from an FIA spokesperson was released, as reported by Athletic reporter Luke Smith:

“The priority will be to run a qualifying session for the Grand Prix. Other sessions may be cancelled or rescheduled to facilitate this, and if it is impossible to run a qualifying then the grid will be set by championship order.”

Lando Norris then went quickest, going a lot quicker than Albon’s time. The Briton set a time of a 2:04.484. However, he was quickly beaten by his teammate Piastri, setting a 2:03.792.

Sainz would then beat both of the McLaren driver’s times, setting a 2:03.207, earning him the quickest time of the session at the half way point.

Logan Sargeant, Williams, Formula 1
Sargeant brought out the red flag (Image Credit: @F1 on Twitter)
Red flag

A red flag would be brought out with half of the session left to go. Williams driver Logan Sargeant stopped at Les Combes. However, after a replay, the American driver could not turn his FW44 car at the end of the Kemmel Straight, leading to him going straight into the barrier. The issue for the American rookie seemed to be a brake-by-wire failure.

The session would eventually resume with 20 minutes to go. However, the rain intensity got even heavier, limiting the drivers to go out on track.

Sergio Perez was the first driver to go back out on track. Interestingly, the Mexican went out on the intermediate tyre with 12 minutes to go. He would be followed out by his teammate Max Verstappen – also on the intermediate tyre.

Despite drivers going out on track, the rain was too heavy for drivers to go on a flying lap.

Carlos Sainz would end the session quickest, as no drivers were able to improve their laptime due to the intensity of the rain. McLaren duo Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris would round up the top three.

  1. Carlos Sainz
  2. Oscar Piastri
  3. Lando Norris
  4. Charles Leclerc
  5. Sergio Perez
  6. Alex Albon
  7. Yuki Tsunoda
  8. Kevin Magnussen
  9. Daniel Ricciardo
  10. Nico Hulkenburg
  11. Fernando Alonso
  12. Lewis Hamilton
  13. George Russell
  14. Valtteri Bottas
  15. Zhou Guanyu
  16. Logan Sargeant
  17. Lance Stroll
  18. Pierre Gasly
  19. Esteban Ocon
  20. Max Verstappen

Logan Sargeant, Lance Stroll, Pierre Gasly, Esteban Ocon and Max Verstappen did not set a lap time.

Feature Image Credit: Dan Mullan via Getty Images

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