Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Spa-Francorchamps, 2018

Ferrari’s advantage isn’t just on Spa’s long straights

2018 Belgian Grand Prix Friday practice analysis

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Friday practice at Spa-Francorchamps confirmed we are likely to see a two-horse fight for victory this weekend. Spa’s long straights, and increasing number of flat-out corners, has exposed Red Bull straight-line speed weakness.

Barring an unforeseen development, this is going to be between Mercedes and Ferrari, and the latter has a slight edge. Sebastian Vettel can usually be relied on to get more out of his car on Saturday than today’s pace-setter Kimi Raikkonen can, so Ferrari may be in even better shape than they seem.

Both teams have brought new power units this weekend. Ferrari, who by general consensus now seem to have F1’s best power unit, found most of their advantage in sectors one and three where the long straights are.

But this isn’t just down to their engine, according to Valtteri Bottas. He said Ferrari are getting better traction out of the lower-speed corners. “Some corner combinations like five, six, seven I think Ferrari seems to be a bit quicker there,” he said. “I don’t think we are far off.”

The teams now have to make a crucial decision on wing angles for qualifying and the race. Ferrari’s speed on Friday seems to indicate they could stand to run a little more.

“That is always a big compromise here,” Bottas explained. “The straight lines, running to the bus stop and turn five they can gain you a lot of lap time or you can lose a lot with a big wing, but sector two you can gain huge amounts with more downforce.”

For Bottas, there is no trade-off to be made between qualifying and the race. A power unit change penalty means he will start at the back anyway, so he only has to focus on his race day set-up.

Lap times this year were almost 1.4 seconds faster than Friday practice at this track 12 months ago. And there’s more to come, reckons Hamilton. The fastest driver through the middle sector today expects to tackle Pouhon flat-out in qualifying.

Esteban Ocon, Force India, Spa-Francorchamps, 2018
Reborn Force India look in great shape
The unknown factor for Saturday is the threat of rain. There is a strong chance of rain early in the morning, and even if it dries out before practice, grip levels on the track will be affected. There is a slight chance of rain during the rest of the day.

Rain in Hungary robbed Ferrari of its performance advantage over Mercedes. But Sebastian Vettel says the team has been working on the problem since then and expects to be more competitive the next time conditions are wet.

If any team looks in need of a break at the moment it’s Force India, who are heading into the second half of the season on zero points following their mid-season change of owner. However they led the midfield in both sessions on Friday. “I think we are quite competitive,” said Sergio Perez, who put in a superb lap in the afternoon session.

“We’ve had probably the best Friday of the season.” That may have been the case for him but it wasn’t so for team mate Esteban Ocon, whose qualifying simulation run was scuppered by a puncture.

Carlos Sainz Jnr, who ran Renault’s new floor, led the surprisingly quick Saubers in the second session. Sauber has tended to gain quite a bit of performance from Friday to Saturday, so they look set for a strong showing. Could they even be about to displace Haas as Ferrari’s top customer team?

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Longest stint comparison – second practice

This chart shows all the drivers’ lap times (in seconds) during their longest unbroken stint. Very slow laps omitted. Scroll to zoom, drag to pan, right-click to reset:

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Complete practice times

PosDriverCarFP1FP2Total laps
1Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1’44.7181’43.35546
2Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’44.6761’43.52350
3Valtteri BottasMercedes1’44.7241’43.80354
4Max VerstappenRed Bull-TAG Heuer1’44.5091’44.04645
5Sebastian VettelFerrari1’44.3581’44.12950
6Daniel RicciardoRed Bull-TAG Heuer1’45.5581’44.25035
7Sergio PerezForce India-Mercedes1’46.1691’44.66248
8Carlos Sainz JnrRenault1’46.2101’45.48148
9Marcus EricssonSauber-Ferrari1’46.5571’45.53743
10Charles LeclercSauber-Ferrari1’46.5541’45.62245
11Nico HulkenbergRenault1’45.9511’45.75347
12Esteban OconForce India-Mercedes1’45.7861’45.93546
13Romain GrosjeanHaas-Ferrari1’46.3871’45.81749
14Kevin MagnussenHaas-Ferrari1’47.0121’46.07850
15Pierre GaslyToro Rosso-Honda1’46.3001’46.08058
16Fernando AlonsoMcLaren-Renault1’46.15328
17Brendon HartleyToro Rosso-Honda1’46.9321’46.33758
18Sergey SirotkinWilliams-Mercedes1’47.3671’46.45158
19Lance StrollWilliams-Mercedes1’46.9651’46.47059
20Stoffel VandoorneMcLaren-Renault1’47.4521’46.49638
21Lando NorrisMcLaren-Renault1’47.36426

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Quotes: Dieter Rencken

2018 Belgian Grand Prix

Browse all 2018 Belgian Grand Prix articles

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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14 comments on “Ferrari’s advantage isn’t just on Spa’s long straights”

  1. My brain hurts. So many errors in this article. Doesn’t anyone proof read them before posting them: “[Ferrari] found most of their advantage in sectors one and two where the long straights are.” It’s sector 1 and 3. “Rain in Hungary robbed Ferrari of its performance advantage over Ferrari.” Really? I mean, I get what what you’re trying to say, but it’s still annoying.

    On another note, why didn’t Kimi take the new engine to serve his penalties here? It be pretty dumb to take it at Monza and have a Ferrari start at the back of the grid at their home race. And he’s still on his spec 1 engine. I guess he could take it at Sochi and have it for last 6 races, but that isn’t a great place to overtake.

    1. Not sure if you noticed on previous articles, but there’s ALWAYS some sort of visible errors, like misplaces positions or lap times in the table compared to the comment.

      I don’t know how there can be mistakes so often, however ferrari being robbed of its advantage over itself is fun for me, not annoying!

      1. To be honest I’m not sure I have ever seen an article from Keith on this site that does not have at least one mistake or typo in it

        1. …. errors on this excellent free content that all of us read, you mean?

          Stop moaning , bunch of entitled so and so’s.

          1. What? Can’t point out that free practice articles often have mistakes in the table?

            Does that mean we’ll stop reading? Doesn’t look like we said so.

    2. @crystakke
      Kimi took a new ICE for this weekend, but runs an already used TC (to avoid a penalty).
      My guess is that they will keep running with the used parts (TC, MGU-H & MGU-K) in Monza and Singapore. The change will most likely happen in Sochi, where Kimi could gain a lot of places already on the start, because of the long run into T2.

  2. Cause Kimi knows he can win this race :)

  3. Rain in Hungary not Robbed Ferrari,their drivers were unabled to cope up where Merc drivers delivered.

  4. Rain in Hungary robbed Ferrari of its performance advantage over Ferrari

    Ummm… @keithcollantine

  5. Rain in Hungary robbed Ferrari of its performance advantage over Ferrari


    Sebastian Vettel can usually be relied on to get more out of his car on Saturday than today’s pace-setter Kimi Raikkonen can

    then again, this is Spa (though I think VET is the only guy both not unlucky and fast enough to finish ahead of RAI as teammate here recently)

  6. The skinniness of Ferrari’s rear wing yesterday indeed was noticeable although so was Red Bull’s and Mclaren’s as well.

  7. If Ferrari is that fast in Kimi’s hands, then it’s the end of the championship. They are going to win SPA, Monza and Singapore easily.

  8. Chart needs a reset button. Can’t right click on mobile

  9. Ladies… What happened to redbull in Hungary qualifying… Ricciardo and verstappen in a friggin redbull?? You know what happened?? T.E.M.P.E.R.A.T.U.R.E. rb and ferrari are kinder they had trouble heating tires in the wet, and Mercedes who struggle with overheating the tires in hot weather was more than happy in the cold wet track.. so yeah Keith is Right

    You all act like engineers but you only think about engine advantage when it comes to who’s better? That’s pretty dumb if you ask me.. racing is not just about hp and downforce… The devil is in the details

Comments are closed.