Belgian Grand Prix practice day report
Ferrari's Fernando Alonso made a clean-sweep of Friday's free practice sessions in Belgium today, with the Spaniard setting the fastest laptimes in the first and second sessions, despite the vastly different track conditions drivers faced. Rain played its part in disrupting the action in both sessions, but the main contenders nevertheless continued to show their strength, with Red Bull and McLaren also clocking quick times.
This morning for the first ninety-minute session, track conditions remained wet throughout, requiring the use of Bridgestone's wet-weather tyre from start to finish. Despite the slippery track, there were no accidents and just a handful of minor off-track excursions, as Alonso set a time of 2m00.797s to go quickest. He was followed closely by McLaren's Lewis Hamilton, with the Brit clocking a 2m01.567s. Team-mate Jenson Button was sixth while Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel was fourth.
Despite continuing rain during the early afternoon, the skies began to clear slowly from the start of the second session, and with no more rain to dampen the surface, drivers soon switched to the intermediate tyre, Alonso being the first to do so after just ten minutes. With more and more drivers venturing out on-track, a dry line didn't take long to appear and half-way through the session, after 45 minutes, Toro Rosso's Jaime Alguersuari was the first brave soul to attack on a set of slicks.
After setting a decent time on his first lap, all other drivers quickly followed suit, but the action was disrupted after 74 minutes when a red flag was flown following concerns from race control that there may have been spectators in a dangerous area. The action resumed with just three and a half minutes remaining, and the entire field flowed out of the pitlane for one final run on slicks. With the advantage of being at the front of the queue, it was then when Alonso jumped to the top of the timesheets courtesy of a 1m49.032s, beating team-mate Massa by half a second.
Traffic chaos behind the Ferraris meant there were few improvements further down the field, as Hamilton had to make do with third place on a time of 1m49.248s. The 2008 champion looked comfortable throughout the session, despite the downforce deficit on his McLaren relative to Ferrari and Red Bull, with the team's F-duct and Mercedes engine working well on Spa-Francorchamps's long straights. Team-mate Jenson Button finished seventh (1m49.755s) having completed 20 laps of running. Sebastian Vettel flew the flag for Red Bull with sixth place.