FP1 report: Carlos Sainz tops the timesheet, leading a Ferrari 1-2

Michelle Foster
Carlos Sainz sitting in his car, visor up. France July 2022

Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz sitting in his car, visor up. France July 2022

Carlos Sainz set the pace in the opening practice session for the Belgian GP as Kevin Magnussen brought out the reds when he ground to a halt.

Max Verstappen, opting to put in his first run on the soft Pirellis, was comfortably quickest before the Ferraris made the change from hard tyres to softs.

Sainz jumped ahead with Charles Leclerc P2 with the Ferrari drivers assured of the 1-2 as rain arrived late in the session, falling as the track went green after Magnussen’s red flag.

The session had been stopped when the Dane’s Haas run into trouble, Magnussen parking his car on the side of the track with a suspected battery problem.

Formula 1 returned from its summer break to a typical Spa day, overcast with a chance of rain. But while that was the norm, the track wasn’t quite what the drivers were used to with several corners – including Eau Rouge and Raidillon – tweaked with a gravel trap was added at La Source. The track had also been resurfaced.

The cars too featured new bits and bobs with McLaren sporting eight changes while Mercedes tried a new floor, running a comparison in FP1. George Russell’s W13 was fitted with the new floor, and Lewis Hamilton the old one.

As for which teams may have been affected by the FIA’s new flexi-floor Technical Directive, the teams weren’t saying.

Carlos Sainz got the timesheet rolling with a 1:51.6 while championship leader Max Verstappen had a close encounter with Nicholas Latifi in the pit lane, the Williams released into his path with the Red Bull driver overtaking him on the inside of the pit lane.

The Dutchman immediately went quickest with a 1:47.4, over two seconds up on the chasing pack. He upped his pace to a 1:46.7.

Esteban Ocon ran into gearbox troubles, informing Alpine that he has a “problem, the car is pulling, gearbox”. He was told to bring it in slowly. Despite initially waiting in the car, Ocon was eventually told to hop out, his day done.

Valtteri Bottas was without a time on the board after 30 minutes, the Alfa Romeo driver once again experiencing problems at the start of a grand prix weekend.

Back at the front Alex Albon jumped up to second place on the soft tyres, Hamilton went third on the medium tyres with Sergio Perez P4 on the hard tyres.

Albon’s soft tyre run saw others make the change to the red Pirellis, Verstappen losing P1 to Sainz who laid down a 1:46.5 with Leclerc up to second and 0.069s down on his team-mate.

Verstappen was down to third ahead of Russell and Lance Stroll when the red flag was waved for Kevin Magnussen’s stricken Haas. It looked like a possible battery issue meaning no mechanics could touch the car at first leading to a rather lengthy red flag stoppage. Guenther Steiner confirmed a problem with the high voltage system.

The session resumed with nine minutes on the clock but with rain coming at Turns 14 and 15, the track temperature dropped and then the rain arrived with only a few drivers opting for an intermediate run as the rain came down harder.

Ferrari finished 1-2 with Sainz ahead of Leclerc, Verstappen third. The latter two are both facing grid penalties.


1 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:46.538 16 laps soft
2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari + 0.069 16 laps soft
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull + 0.217 10 laps soft
4 George Russell Mercedes + 0.858 13 laps soft
5 Lance Stroll Aston Martin + 0.899 13 laps soft
6 Alex Albon Williams + 1.297 15 laps soft
7 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren + 1.543 14 laps soft
8 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri + 1.772 16 laps soft
9 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes + 1.882 10 laps medium
10 Sergio Perez Red Bull + 1.936 13 laps hard
11 Nicholas Latifi Williams + 1.947 13 laps soft
12 Guanyu Zhou Alfa Romeo Racing + 2.134 15 laps soft
13 Lando Norris McLaren + 2.932 15 laps soft
14 Fernando Alonso Alpine + 3.126 17 laps soft
15 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin + 3.275 12 laps medium
16 Esteban Ocon Alpine + 3.777 5 laps soft
17 Kevin Magnussen Haas + 4.444 9 laps soft
18 Mick Schumacher Haas + 4.721 15 laps soft
19 Liam Lawson AlphaTauri + 5.527 14 laps hard
20 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo Racing no time 2 laps soft