Logan Sargeant, Williams, Spa-Francorchamps, 2023

Sainz quickest, Sargeant crashes, Verstappen sets no time in wet practice

2023 Belgian Grand Prix first practice

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Carlos Sainz Jnr set the fastest time in the practice session for the Belgian Grand Prix in a heavily wet hour of running.

The Ferrari driver posted the quickest lap of a 2’03.207 on full wet tyres as only 15 drivers completed timed laps – championship leader Max Verstappen being one of five drivers who did not set a time. Logan Sargeant crashed his Williams midway through the session, bringing out the red flags.

The anticipated rain arrived well before the start of the sole practice session for the weekend, leaving the track soaked by the time the green light appeared at the end of the pit lane to begin the hour. Alexander Albon was the first driver to take to the soggy circuit on intermediate tyres, but he was soon joined by Lewis Hamilton who played it safer with full wet tyres.

While those on intermediates were able to keep their cars on track, with Albon setting the quickest time of a 2’08.394, the rain began falling in increased intensity. After 10 minutes, the track fell silent as all 11 drivers who had ventured out of the pit lane returned to the safety of the pit lane.

It took over five minutes before Sainz headed out in his Ferrari on full wets, quickly joined by the two McLarens of Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri, the two Alpine drivers Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez’s Red Bull. It quickly became apparent that despite the rain, the water levels on the track allowed for intermediates to be viable. That was demonstrated when the two McLarens of Piastri and Norris moved to the top of the times over four seconds quicker than the previous best times from before the earlier downfall.

The low-grip conditions were still posing challenges for drivers. Gasly ran off the track under braking for the former Bus Stop chicane, while Zhou Guanyu did the same at Bruxelles, making slight contact with the wall after travelling through the gravel. But as Zhou managed to recover back on track, the same could not be said for Sargeant who aquaplaned clean off the track on the Kemmel Straight on the approach to Les Combes, crashing helplessly into the outside barrier at a thankfully reduced speed.

With the Williams laying stranded at Les Combes, the session was red flagged almost exactly half way into the practice hour. After a delay of 10 minutes, the pit lane reopened. However, the rain had increased once again with none of the 19 remaining drivers appearing eager to return to the track.

Eventually, with under 15 minutes of run time remaining, the two Red Bulls ventured out on intermediate tyres, Verstappen having only completed a single reconnaissance lap up to that point in the session. But he was again straight back into the pits at the end of the lap, clearly having no interest in setting a time. Both Aston Martins of Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll also completed exploratory tours of the track before bailing out back to the pits.

There were no improvements in the latter stages of the session, with only a handful of cars heading out in the final minutes to conduct practice starts. That left Sainz on top of the times, half a second quicker than Piastri and Norris in third. Charles Leclerc was fourth fastest in the second Ferrari, with Perez fifth in the Red Bull. Albon was sixth for Williams with Yuki Tsunoda seventh, Kevin Magnussen eighth, Daniel Ricciardo ninth and Nico Hulkenberg completing the top 10.

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2023 Belgian Grand Prix first practice result

Position Number Driver Team Model Time Gap Laps
1 55 Carlos Sainz Jnr Ferrari SF-23 2’03.207 9
2 81 Oscar Piastri McLaren-Mercedes MCL60 2’03.792 0.585 4
3 4 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes MCL60 2’04.484 1.277 4
4 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari SF-23 2’08.148 4.941 8
5 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda RBPT RB19 2’08.240 5.033 5
6 23 Alexander Albon Williams-Mercedes FW45 2’08.394 5.187 5
7 22 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda RBPT AT04 2’09.067 5.860 8
8 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari VF-23 2’09.229 6.022 7
9 3 Daniel Ricciardo AlphaTauri-Honda RBPT AT04 2’09.319 6.112 7
10 27 Nico Hulkenberg Haas-Ferrari VF-23 2’10.042 6.835 8
11 14 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin-Mercedes AMR23 2’10.283 7.076 4
12 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes W14 2’10.299 7.092 7
13 63 George Russell Mercedes W14 2’10.475 7.268 7
14 77 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo-Ferrari C43 2’12.085 8.878 9
15 24 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo-Ferrari C43 2’14.002 10.795 8
16 2 Logan Sargeant Williams-Mercedes FW45 No time 4
17 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes AMR23 No time 5
18 10 Pierre Gasly Alpine-Renault A523 No time 2
19 31 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault A523 No time 2
20 1 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda RBPT RB19 No time 2

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2023 Belgian Grand Prix

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Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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8 comments on “Sainz quickest, Sargeant crashes, Verstappen sets no time in wet practice”

  1. What a washout, so perhaps Belgian GP should revert to the standard format for next season, given high rain chance combined with a single practice session is an unideal combination.

    1. Most of the time having a sprint is a 1-off anyway for a track.

    2. @jerejj

      No… really?

  2. Plenty of other tracks that want F1, skip this place.
    And what was SAI doing behind HAM at the end? Seemed unnecessary.

    1. Skip what? Spa? you must be from the US /s

  3. Lewisham Milton
    28th July 2023, 15:31

    Max is winging it! No practice and a grid drop.
    But he’ll still win by a mile (if there’s a race) on Sunday…

  4. Also, my feeling at monaco seems to be right: these full wet tyres are still way too slow even in heavy rain, so they’re not viable, drivers will ofc be using intermediates in heavy rain if they gain 4 sec per lap…

    1. And keep in mind pirelli had said they would bring a wet tyre that should be faster, already at monaco, but ofc they weren’t successful, again.

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