Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc dominate opening practice


Carlos Sainz topped the times ahead of team-mate Charles Leclerc as Ferrari completed a resounding one-two finish past world champion and Red Bull series leader Max Verstappen in Friday’s opening practice at the Belgian Grand Prix.

The Spaniard set the fastest lap in one minute and 46.538 seconds to edge his Monegasque partner by almost a tenth of a second.

Verstappen, who leads the title race with 80 points, was adrift by 1.2 seconds in an intriguing session run in dry conditions until a late downpour.


George Russell was fourth for Mercedes in 1:47.396 ahead of Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll, Williams’ Alex Albon and a revived Daniel Ricciardo who finished seventh for McLaren, two days after announcing his early exit from the team later this year.

Yuki Tsunoda finished eighth for Alpha Tauri ahead of seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton in second Mercedes and Sergio Perez, who finished 10th in second Red Bull.

The session started in dry but overcast conditions after significant news in the morning when Audi confirmed its entry as engine supplier from 2026, which is expected to be with Sauber.

They currently race as Alfa Romeo with a Ferrari engine – although the Italian sponsor also announced on Friday that it would end the partnership at the end of 2023.

After the ‘summer break’, teams returned with upgrade packages including Mercedes and McLaren as they eyed continued improvement in results in the latter part of the season.

Once the action began, it was soon clear that the usual suspects would lead the way with Sainz, Verstappen and Leclerc setting the early pace and swapping places above the timing monitors.

An electrical problem for Kevin Magnussen in his Haas led to a red flag after 37 minutes and a 12-minute break before heavy rain announced action resumed for the final seven minutes.

The Belgian race marked not only the return of racing after the summer break, but also the introduction of a new set of controls to reduce the “porpoising” that had plagued many teams in the early part of the season.

On top of all that, Verstappen and Leclerc face hefty grid penalties this weekend, along with Norris and Ocon, for taking new power unit parts for their cars.

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