Mercedes got their weekend to a perfect start, posting the fastest time in the first practice courtesy of Valtteri Bottas. Although Red Bull’s Max Verstappen ended up fastest in the afternoon session, the Brackley-based outfit’s drivers set their best times on Pirelli’s Medium compound in contrast to the Dutchman, who set his benchmark on the red-walled soft rubber.
While races that took place in May, June and early July indicated that Red Bull might have the upper hand, the "pendulum" of competitiveness has swung back in Mercedes' favour in the last two races ahead of the summer break. At Silverstone, Verstappen looked in control of the action before having been forced by Hamilton into the barriers while, at Budapest, the Dutchman’s RB16B sustained huge damage in a first corner pile-up triggered by Bottas.
Mercedes now leads the Constructors’ Championship with Hamilton finding himself also atop the Drivers’ Championship. And now, as the field returned to action at Spa, Mercedes is seemingly enjoying a slight competitive advantage both over a single lap and in race trim given the performance runs in the two practice sessions.
FerrariCharles Leclerc - FP1: 1:45.818, P4; FP2: 1:46.836, P18
"We have quite a bit of work to do. FP1 was alright but FP2 was a bit more difficult. We’ve got tonight to work on the set-up of the car and hopefully we can have a better day tomorrow. I was reasonably happy with the car balance but the performance is not where we expected it to be.
"The track conditions were tricky but it was the same for everyone. It looks like it will remain like this for the rest of the weekend, so we have to get used to it. It wasn’t great to finish the first day by touching the wall, but tomorrow and Sunday will be the days that count and I will make sure to learn from my mistake."Carlos Sainz - FP1: 1:45.935, P5; FP2: 1:45.517, P11
"It’s great to be back, especially at a circuit like this which always gives you a great feeling in a Formula 1 car. Today I enjoyed myself. In terms of performance, however, we didn’t have the best of Fridays. We couldn’t complete a proper long run in FP2 and the short runs were also tricky with the balance of the car. We have a bit of homework to do overnight, but I’m confident we can improve and be in a better place tomorrow.
"The weather looks uncertain for Saturday and Sunday. The rain can appear anytime, as we saw today with F3 qualifying, so we’ll be prepared for any conditions."
AlpineEsteban Ocon - FP1: 1:46.497, P9; FP2: 1:45.302, P7
“Firstly, it’s great to be back in the car after the summer break. Today has been busy and chaotic in all the ways possible with the weather conditions. It kept changing throughout the day, meaning we had to adapt to both damp and dry conditions. It was quite hard at the beginning as some areas were damp while some parts of the track were completely normal.
„I had a spin in FP2, but I was just pushing a bit to find the limit and it was slippery out there, but fortunately there was no damage done! Overall, though, we look quite competitive with similar characteristics to our performance last year, which is good news. Qualifying is tomorrow and that’s when it matters.”Fernando Alonso - FP1: 1:46.612, P10; FP2: 1:44.953, P4
“It was an interesting Friday for sure. We were looking at the sky all morning and afternoon as it wasn’t a completely dry circuit to start both of the sessions. This impacted our day a little bit, but I think we have a good baseline for tomorrow. The weather will be the thing for us all to watch as it’s looking slightly unknown heading into qualifying. If it’s dry, I’m quite confident of a strong result.”
MercedesLewis Hamilton – FP1: 1:48.224, P18; FP2: 1:44.544, P3
"Finding the right balance here is a big challenge. In FP1, we tried one way, and then we changed it this afternoon. The pace was quite similar - you try one option, and you are faster in the first and third sectors, but slower in the middle. And then you try the other option and it's the opposite. So, figuring out the right balance is really tricky.
„It's also tough to gain knowledge in these short sessions but we're navigating it the best we can and at least it was dry for most of the running. Overall, it was an okay day, but I didn't quite have the car underneath me, so we've got some work to do tonight to figure that out. The weather is also going to play a big role. If it does rain, you obviously want more downforce, but then if it doesn't rain, you are a sitting duck on the straights. So we have to be very careful with the changes we make."Valtteri Bottas - FP1: 1:45.199, P1; FP2: 1:44.513, P2
"Everything felt pretty good out there today. As we saw from the timesheets, it's going to be very close with Red Bull once again so we'll look into the detail tonight and see what marginal gains we can find. The pace on both the short and the long runs was pretty decent. It's always tricky to compare in detail from the practice sessions, but at least the feeling is good, so that is a positive start to the weekend.
„We looked quite fast on the straights with the wing level we ran and in the race, it'll be important for me to be quick in sectors one and three, to make the overtakes. But then, if it rains, you want more downforce. So, session by session, we need to see how it is going to look. That decision will be key for qualifying."
Red BullMax Verstappen - FP1: 1:45.363, P2; FP2: 1:44.472, P1
“I think we definitely had a positive start today but unfortunately I just lost the rear at the end of the second session, there was a bit too much oversteer to correct and I hit the wall. As a team we were quite happy with how everything was going and we did some fine tuning between FP1 and FP2.
„Looking ahead to tomorrow, there are of course things to take into consideration including the weather but it’s difficult to say what the track is going to be like in the wet. I think Saturday and Sunday will be similar weather to today so it will definitely be interesting. It’s also great that Checo will be with the team next year, we have a good relationship so I’m happy to continue working together to try and score a lot of points for the team for the rest of this season and of course next year.”
Sergio Perez - FP1: 1:46.127, P6; FP2: 1:45.404, P10 “The car is feeling good and I think we have strong potential for this weekend. It’s going to be interesting what happens with the weather tomorrow as that obviously affects how you configure the car but I’m looking forward to it. I think we will be in the fight and able to have a good qualifying, the pace was strong out there today and it will be interesting to see who has what when they put it all together in Q3.
„We collected plenty of information over the two practice sessions, we’ll sit down this evening to analyse it so we have the best package tomorrow. It’s also great to have my contract for next year with Red Bull finalised so that I can focus my energy on this season. I really enjoy being a part of this team so I’m really happy to continue for 2022 but my focus right now is on this weekend and delivering the best possible result.”
HaasMick Schumacher – FP1: 1:49.059, P20; FP2: 1:47.529, P20
“It was definitely good to be back on track after the summer break, especially to a track like here, it’s special. I was hoping that it would stay wet but unfortunately the track dried up just as we were going out, but nonetheless, we learned a lot and we have a few ideas of what we want to try tomorrow. We’ll see what the weather does – today was supposed to be a completely wet day and it ended up being dry, so we’ll see what to expect for tomorrow.”Nikita Mazepin – FP1: 1:48.705, P19; FP2: 1:47.335, P19
“The car felt good. The conditions today both times started off wet but were not wet enough for us to run on intermediates and we lost a bit of track time, but the car feels good in the dry conditions and I’m very much looking forward to tomorrow. The balance isn’t the easiest to drive but we’re not very far off our perfect balance in the car today. It was a challenging day but still enjoyable to do Eau Rouge flat out and get over 320 kph down the main straight, which was cool.”
AlphaTauriPierre Gasly - FP1: 1:45.699, P3; FP2: 1:44.965, P5
“I’m really happy to be back racing again after the summer break, particularly at such a great track like Spa. It was important for us to have the best start possible this weekend and I think that’s what we’ve done today, finishing P3 and P5. We know the areas we need to focus on going into tomorrow, as of course there’s always some extra speed to find.
„The weather is very interchangeable here in Spa, we’ve seen it today with different conditions, and we may have rain tomorrow, so we need to be prepared for that as well. The baseline we have seems to work and we’re hoping we can confirm that everything is working well in qualifying tomorrow.”Yuki Tsunoda - FP1: 1:46.928, P15; FP2: 1:45.758, P12
“My main target this weekend is consistency and to build up the pace in the car across the practice sessions. I think so far this has gone well and we’ve been able to adapt across the sessions to improve our performance.
„As a team, you can see the pace is there, so I just need to continue improving and gaining confidence ahead of qualifying tomorrow. The weather changes here are fairly traditional for Spa, it’s definitely quite difficult to drive, but I have some great memories from this circuit over the last few years and I’m excited to be driving here again, especially in a Formula 1 car.”
“It is good to be back after the break and I felt comfortable in the car straight away. It was not easy to complete a lot of laps because of the conditions and the two red flags this afternoon, but we were able to collect some important data. I think there is more to come from me and the car, and we know what to work on overnight to be ready for qualifying. I think the changeable weather is here to stay, so reading the conditions and being on the right tyre at the right time will be key. Wet weather can always mix up the grid a bit, so hopefully we can capitalise on any opportunities this weekend.”Lance Stroll - FP1: 1:46.649, P11; FP2: 1:45.180, P6
“It is great to be back at Spa. I love coming here because it is such a special track. We got through our programme today to complete a good number of laps and I was comfortable in the car. It has been a strong start for us, but the damp conditions out there show it could be quite unpredictable on Saturday and Sunday. The weather being a bit of an unknown is challenging, but that makes it more exciting for us drivers. I am looking forward to getting back in the car tomorrow and building on today’s work.”
McLarenDaniel Ricciardo - FP1: 1:46.683, P12; FP2: 1:46.118, P15
“Firstly, good to be back out there. It’s sometimes a little hard after a holiday but it was really nice to be back in the car. I enjoyed it, and I think this track is fun as well, so that helps me get excited. Our performance on the soft tyre wasn’t great but I think we have a good understanding why, so I wouldn’t say I’m concerned about today’s times. It was pretty decent on the hard.
“We made some steps with set up, so we’ll try to make a bit more of a step tonight and learn a bit more. It was a steady day. We avoided the rain for the most part, so we’ll see what happens tomorrow.”Lando Norris - FP1: 1:46.336, P8; FP2: 1:45.386, P9
“I’m happy with the first day back. Obviously, everyone’s getting back into it a little bit, but it was a positive day. We made some good improvements with the car, we tried some things between sessions and I think we have a good direction to explore overnight so we can go into FP3 and qualifying with a slightly better car. It’s been tricky, especially with the weather, but I’m confident that we have a good enough car to bring the challenge to the competition tomorrow and get a good result in qualifying.”
Alfa RomeoKimi Raikkonen - FP1: 1:48.125, P17; FP2: 1:45.967, P14
“It was a better day than we thought: it looked like FP2 would be a wet session, but then it was dry and we could run. We made a step forward throughout the day but there’s still work to be done. Let’s see what weather we get in qualifying, how we can improve overnight and find out how well we do tomorrow. In mixed conditions, everything can happen.”Antonio Giovinazzi - FP1: 1:46.755, P13; FP2: 1:45.789, P13
“We had a smooth and positive day, a good way to come back from the summer break. I am happy with the work we did: we only did a few laps on high fuel, so we don’t have a lot of data for Sunday, but we have tomorrow still – and we have to take the weather into account. We were expecting rain this afternoon, but we ran in the dry instead. We’ll see what we get tomorrow: the target is to get to Q2 and see what we can do from there.”
Finally, it's time to get back down to business 😍 pic.twitter.com/mpvpB7t6Hf— Williams Racing (@WilliamsRacing) August 27, 2021
"I am happy to be back; it has been four weeks since I last drove and so it was great to get straight back into it. I think we have been very fortunate today with the weather, we got the driest parts of the day in both sessions which has been good for us and for the fans. Keeping the tyre temperatures alive and maintaining confidence in the wet parts of the track is going to be really tricky if we continue to get mixed conditions.
"We have a lot to improve overnight as I think we are a little off the pace, but we have some ideas up our sleeves and so we’ll work through those. There is always a compromise and never anything that will just give you performance, so there will be some interesting conversations to see which direction we will go."Nicholas Latifi - FP1: 1:47.101, P16; FP2: 1:46.198, P16
"It’s great to be back behind the wheel at such a great track to drive a Formula One car. It’s been a bit of a disrupted day with the mixed conditions, so I think we still have some more pace to find. I’m happy with our low fuel pace, but it was harder to gauge high fuel with the red flags interrupting the session, although everyone will be in a similar position with that.
„We have some work to do overnight and the unpredictable weather can make decisions more challenging. I don’t particularly mind what the weather brings tomorrow, this track is always fun in dry conditions, but the rain provides more opportunities which we need to make the most of."