FP2 Report: Verstappen makes it happen whilst Mercedes focus on long runs

FP2 in Belgium provided a more mixed running order than usual and the biggest implication for qualifying concerns the supersoft tyre. If the heat at Spa keeps up, the supersoft tyre will only last for a single flying lap before degrading – so expect chaos in the pits on Saturday.

Max Verstappen set the fastest time of the session with a 1m.48.085s and led his team-mate Ricciardo by 0.256s. The Red Bulls look hooked up and very stable in the fast corners, so they’ll be up there in Qualifying and the Race. Nico Hulkenberg confirmed that this weekend will be happy hunting grounds for Force India with a solid 3rd, the German a mere three-tenths behind Ricciardo.

Vettel lined up 4th and had a typical session of gesticulating angrily to other drivers, prompting us to think that Xanax wouldn’t be a bad sponsor for Ferrari this season. Sergio Perez finished 5th meaning that both Force India’s were a worrying 1.5s quicker than both Williams cars in the battle for 4th in the constructors.

Rosberg was quickest in FP1, but only managed 6th here as Mercedes concentrated on longer runs on the harder compound tyres. Mercedes were good enough to confirm to us that there’s nothing to worry about though and it’s obvious that the team have more pace in the locker for the sessions that count.

The hot weather has assured that the Mercedes duo are wise to run long-stints given that high track temperatures will drastically amend the predicted tyre stint of each compound. Rosberg was warned over radio about the temperature of his soft tyres after 16 laps of running. If the weather keeps up, the Mediums might be the tyre of choice come Sunday.

Raikkonen managed 7th due to his supersoft hot-lap involving an error at Pouhon, his Ferrari vibrating over the kerbs of the double-apex. Grosjean finished 8th despite a verbal barrage over team radio regarding the car’s balance and Button showed a glimmer of promise for McLaren’s upgraded power-unit with 9th. Gutierrez rounded out the top ten and confirmed that Haas could be the surprise package this weekend.

Elsewhere, Pascal Wehrlein negated Esteban Ocon’s FP1 dominance with a very impressive 11th. It’s great to see Manor racing competitive and the young Mercedes drivers that they have will want to beat each other and ultimately propel the entire team forward.

Fernando Alonso finished 12th but will start alongside Hamilton at the back of the grid on race-day after incurring a ludicrous 35-place grid penalty for an engine change after a water leak in FP1. Hamilton was only 13th fastest, but neither  Mercedes ran the supersoft and Hamilton almost focused exclusively on medium tyre stints.

Daniil Kvyat’s Toro Rosso finished the session in 14th. Hopefully, the Russian will recall his 4th place with Red Bull last year and use this as motivation to enjoy his racing again. He outperformed the highly rated Carlos Sainz in this session so despite popular misconception, he hasn’t lost it.

The big disappointment of FP2 has to be Williams. They were well off the pace with Bottas 16th and Massa 17th at a circuit that should play to the strengths of the FW-38. With the pace that their rivals Force India have shown here, a change in the constructors order could be on the cards this weekend.

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