Even before taking to the track, the Belgian Grand Prix was expected to be a complicated event for Scuderia Ferrari and the first day of free practice proved the point. During both sessions, the track conditions were hard to understand because of the weather changing constantly from sunshine to rain. Although this was the same situation for everyone, it made life difficult for the teams, with it being further complicated by the length of the lap which reduces the time available to make changes and to find the ideal set-up.
In the first session, Charles and Carlos ran both the Hard and Soft tyres, completing a total of 39 laps, 19 for the Monegasque and 20 for the Spaniard. They set the fourth and fifth fastest times respectively in 1’45″818 and 1’45″935.
In the hour long afternoon session, the SF21s took to the track on Medium tyres, thus finishing off the work of assessing all the compounds available this weekend. They then switched to the Softs for the usual qualifying simulation runs. Carlos set a best time of 1’45″517, while Charles had to abort his first run because of a yellow flag. On his second run he ended up in the barriers between turns 6 and 7, emerging unscathed, although the SF21 suffered damage to the front left suspension. The session was red flagged, resuming with 10 minutes remaining, but with less than three minutes to go, it was stopped for good when another driver went off the track.
The Scuderia Ferrari crew now faces a busy afternoon and evening, working on establishing the best set-up for qualifying and the race. The two stoppages towards the end of the day prevented Carlos from doing a comprehensive race configuration run as the Spaniard only managed a lap and a half with a full fuel load. It looks as though the weather could be even more unsettled for tomorrow and Sunday, so the team faces a weekend of balancing risk and opportunity. The drivers and indeed the entire team, must be ready to make the most of any opportunities that arise while avoiding the pitfalls along the way.
Carlos Sainz: “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.”
Charles Leclerc: “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.”
Check out our Friday gallery from Spa, here.