Red Bull Racing driver Max Verstappen ended up fastest in a mostly dry afternoon session for the Belgian Grand Prix while defending champion team Mercedes held its real performance back by turning down the engines during the important qualifying simulation runs.
The session started in a similar fashion to how things began in the opening practice with damp patches awaiting the field. While some drivers headed out for an inspection on intermediate tyres, it quickly became clear that the racing line was almost bone dry, prompting the field to wait a bit before starting the afternoon work on Pirelli’s dry-weather boots.
The Mercedes drivers were very quick on the medium boots, confirming their impressive form they showed during the opening practice. Bottas recorded a time of 1m44.513s on the yellow-banded tyres, pipping his team mate Lewis Hamilton while Verstappen was unable to keep up with Mercedes, losing big chunks of time in the power-sensitive first sector.
Following the first runs, drivers followed the routine programme by heading out on to the 7.004km long Spa-Franchorchamps track on Pirelli’s red-walled soft compound. Verstappen was still unable to post the times in Sector 1 and 2 that Bottas and Hamilton were able to record on their medium-tyre run, but his eye-catching time in the middle part of Formula One’s longest circuit was enough for him to jump to the top of the timesheets.
Interestingly, Mercedes drivers could not improve their previous benchmarks on the soft compound. Both Bottas and Hamilton lost over three tenths of a second in the first and third sector on their low-fuel soft-tyre simulation, leaving a suspicion that they may have been running a lower power setting for their qualifying simulation runs on the softs.
Ferrari endured a difficult afternoon, failing to impress on either compounds. Carlos Sainz ended up in P11 while his team mate Charles Leclerc finished down in P18 with a time that he set on the medium compound.
Alpine’s Fernando Alonso and AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly found themselves at the top of the midfield, beating their direct rivals by almost three tenths of a second.
Disregarding Leclerc, Williams and Haas ended up at the bottom end of the standings. The Grove-based outfit’s Nicholas Latifi finished ahead of team mate George Russell in P16 and P17, with Mazepin winning out the team battle at Haas over Mick Schumacher, as they rounded out the order in 19th and 20th behind Leclerc.
Drivers usually perform high-fuel race simulation at the end of the second practice sessions. That was a difficult task to execute today with two red-flag periods interrupting the session.
The first was triggered by Leclerc, who crashed out at Malmedy when he lost the rear end of his Ferrari SF21 with less than 20 minutes to go. The incident brought out the red flag, delaying the start of the race simulation runs.
Following Leclerc’s incident, drivers were in a rush to complete at least a few laps on high fuel, but the simulations came to an early end as Verstappen lost control of his RB16B at exactly the same spot as Leclerc. The Dutchman rotated his car which has caused a significant damage to the rear end of the Red Bull.
Asked what happened in the crash, Verstappen replied: "I don't know, just lost the rear. A bit too much oversteer to correct and unfortunately I hit the wall."
|1||33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing Honda||1:44.472||12|
|4||14||Fernando Alonso||Alpine Renault||1:44.953||+0.481s||15|
|5||10||Pierre Gasly||Alphatauri Honda||1:44.965||+0.493s||17|
|6||18||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin Mercedes||1:45.180||+0.708s||14|
|7||31||Esteban Ocon||Alpine Renault||1:45.302||+0.830s||15|
|8||5||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin Mercedes||1:45.336||+0.864s||16|
|9||4||Lando Norris||Mclaren Mercedes||1:45.386||+0.914s||18|
|10||11||Sergio Perez||Red Bull Racing Honda||1:45.404||+0.932s||13|
|12||22||Yuki Tsunoda||Alphatauri Honda||1:45.758||+1.286s||17|
|13||99||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari||1:45.789||+1.317s||16|
|14||7||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari||1:45.967||+1.495s||18|
|15||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Mclaren Mercedes||1:46.118||+1.646s||14|
|16||6||Nicholas Latifi||Williams Mercedes||1:46.198||+1.726s||17|
|17||63||George Russell||Williams Mercedes||1:46.665||+2.193s||14|
|19||9||Nikita Mazepin||Haas Ferrari||1:47.335||+2.863s||14|
|20||47||Mick Schumacher||Haas Ferrari||1:47.529||+3.057s||15|