August 23rd, 2013 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - Fernando Alonso topped the times in the first practice session for this weekend's Belgian Grand Prix, ahead othe Force India pair of Paul Di Resta and Adrian Sutil.
The session was a mix of wet and dry throughout, with some parts of the 7km Spa-Francorchamps circuit wet while others were bone dry. Most of the circuit from Eau Rouge to Blanchimont (almost the entire circuit) was dry, but from the final chicane, through the first corner and down to Eau Rouge was quite wet. That meant that Intermediate tyres were necessary in the first half of the session, but the tyres suffered from overheating on the dry parts of the track.
Jenson Button was quickest in the early part of the session on Intermediate tyres, and when the track had dried enough for slick tyres, he tenaciously held onto the top spot, going quicker every time another driver beat his leading time. But that couldn't last for long - the McLaren is not quick enough at this point of the season - and eventually Button finished the session in 14th place. His team-mate, Sergio Perez, managed to set the fourth fastest time, showing his speed and the improved form of McLaren around Spa.
It was clear just how slippery the track was, with many drivers, including reigning World Champion Sebastian Vettel, running wide under braking for the chicane. Vettel had a small spin in La Source (turn one), as did Valtteri Bottas. Both Bottas and Maldonado looked comfortable in the wet conditions, where the Williams seemed to work well. Once the track dried out a bit, they fell towards the middle of the time sheet.
There is rain expected for qualifying and Sunday's race, which provides an interesting challenge for the engineers. They must choose a set-up that will work in the conditions they forecast for Saturday and Sunday afternoon, but they don't want to be caught with both cars on the wrong set-up if it does not rain on Sunday. There are therefore likely to be team-mates running different aerodynamic setups, as was seen on the Ferraris during FP1 - Massa was running less rear wing than Alonso.
FP2 is expected to be dry, which will allow the teams that have brought upgrades to Spa to test their new parts, which they were unable to do in FP1 due to the conditions. McLaren Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh, talking to the BBC commentary team during FP1, indicated that there is little point in running new parts on wet tyres, as the shape and behaviour of the dry tyres is needed to properly evaluate any aerodynamic developments.
Full results from FP1:
|2||14||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1:55.224||0.026||10|
|3||15||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||1:55.373||0.175||11|
|6||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:55.636||0.438||14|
|17||21||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham-Renault||1:57.887||2.689||16|
|19||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:58.929||3.731||12|