Belgian Grand Prix: Carlos Sainz sets the pace in a washed-out FP1

Michelle Foster
Carlos Sainz at a wet Spa. Belgian July 2023

Carlos Sainz at a wet Spa. Belgian July 2023

Carlos Sainz was P1 in the opening, and only, practice session for the Belgian Grand Prix but it was a damp squib with just 15 times on the board.

A sodden circuit awaited the drivers at the start of the Belgian Grand Prix weekend’s one and only practice session given it’s a sprint weekend with its standalone Saturday sprint format.

As to be expected there wasn’t a mad dash to get out but given the entire weekend will be wet, the drivers soon began to trickle out.

Wet running and a red flag in FP1 for the Belgian Grand Prix

Alex Albon was the first driver to brave the conditions followed by his team-mate Logan Sargeant with both Williams drivers on the inters, the rest of the field opting for the full wets as the rain grew heavier. A 2:08.3 for Albon, who then went flying off the circuit as he locked up into the Bus Stop chicane, and a 2:10.2 for Lewis Hamilton on the full wets.

10 minutes into the session six drivers had times on the board, five others had at least done a lap, and one Red Bull guest was having to put masking tape over the Ferrari logo on her cap as per the request of Christian Horner. And all 20 drivers were back in the pits as the rain came down harder.

Carlos Sainz broke the silence on full wets to go P2, prompting others to head out of the pits with a mix of wets and inters on the track. The most talked about team in the paddock in recent weeks, McLaren, shot up to run 1-2 with Oscar Piastri on a 2:037 and seven-tenths up on his team-mate Lando Norris.

But while his rivals played in the rain, Max Verstappen kept his powder – and himself – dry as he watched from the Red Bull garage as his team-mate Sergio Perez lapped in the rain. At the halfway mark the Mexican driver was up to P5 on the timesheet, which was being led by Sainz with a 2:03.2, the McLarens, and then Charles Leclerc.

Red flag! recommends

F1 2023: Head-to-head qualifying and race stats between team-mates

F1 driver contracts: What is the current contract status of every driver on the 2023 grid?

Sargeant crashed at the end of the Kemmel Straight with the Williams driver telling the team he “couldn’t turn” as he went skating into the barrier and damaged the front left of his FW45.

As the drivers waited for Sargeant’s car to be cleared by the marshals, it began to chuck down with doubts about whether anyone would go out again. Perez did, and then Verstappen did too. But the Red Bulls were back in after one lap and so too with the Aston Martins with Lance Stroll’s engineer telling the driver the rain was too heavy to continue.

With just a handful of sporadic laps in the final 10 minutes, and end-of-session-lap to practice a start, FP1 ended as a damp squib with Sainz P1 ahead of Piastri and Norris.

With heavy rain forecast for qualifying, the FIA has confirmed that the grid will be set in championship order if qualifying cannot be run.


1 Carlos SAINZ Ferrari 2:03.207
2 Oscar PIASTRI McLaren +0.585
3 Lando NORRIS McLaren +1.277
4 Charles LECLERC Ferrari +4.941
5 Sergio PEREZ Red Bull Racing +5.033
6 Alexander ALBON Williams +5.187
7 Yuki TSUNODA AlphaTauri +5.860
8 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Haas F1 Team +6.022
9 Daniel RICCIARDO AlphaTauri +6.112
10 Nico HULKENBERG Haas F1 Team +6.835
11 Fernando ALONSO Aston Martin +7.076
12 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes +7.092
13 George RUSSELL Mercedes +7.268
14 Valtteri BOTTAS Alfa Romeo +8.878
15 Guanyu ZHOU Alfa Romeo +10.795
16 Logan SARGEANT Williams no time
17 Lance STROLL Aston Martin no time
18 Pierre GASLY Alpine no time
19 Esteban OCON Alpine no time
20 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing no time

Read next: Glimmer of hope for Max Verstappen’s rivals with the driver set to be penalised