FP2 report: Max Verstappen in a class of one in Belgian Grand Prix practice

Henry Valantine
Max Verstappen, Red Bull, in FP2 for the Belgian GP. Spa August 2022.

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen makes his way around Pouhon during practice. Spa-Francorchamps August 2022.

Max Verstappen took top spot by quite a distance in FP2 for the Belgian Grand Prix, with Charles Leclerc a full eight tenths of a second behind him in P2.

The Red Bull driver found performance others simply could not in overcast conditions at Spa, with Lando Norris rounding out the top three – albeit a second down on the reigning World Champion.

Lance Stroll was impressive in putting his Aston Martin fourth, with Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes rounding out the top five in the session.

Given the red flag in FP1 which had limited the drivers’ running, Spa-Francorchamps was quickly full of Formula 1 cars as the lights went green for the start of FP2, with a touch of dampness on the surface after a wet/dry Formula 3 qualifying session just beforehand.

Sainz had something of an eventful start to the session, raising his hand out of his car in frustration after being held up by Sebastian Vettel, before he took part in “a bit of rallying” after heading off into the gravel at Fagnes – though he was able to keep himself going.

On the timesheet, Sainz was four tenths behind Max Verstappen at the top after medium-tyre running, the Dutchman’s 1:46.850 setting the early pace and 1.2 seconds ahead of third-placed Sergio Perez.

George Russell said he could not generate tyre temperature in cool conditions, with a few damp patches on track leaving the drivers having to pick their lines carefully during the session.

But runs on soft rubber were still to come, to show more representative speed around Spa.

Verstappen was able to stretch his legs further as a result, his 1:45.507 putting him a whopping eight tenths clear of the rest of the field, with the middle sector proving fruitful for the Red Bull in terms of finding time.

As an example, Lewis Hamilton lost a full second to Verstappen in that part of the lap alone, having matched his first sector, before losing three more tenths in the final sector.

Norris popped himself up to third place in his McLaren with a solid qualifying simulation, but could not get to within a second of Verstappen who looked a man on a mission in FP2.

The World Championship leader is among a swathe of drivers with plenty of work to do on Sunday as one of six who have taken fresh engine components beyond their allocation which will drop them to the back of the grid.

Attention soon turned to long-run simulations after the drivers ran on soft tyres for a practice qualifying lap, with the teams looking to perfect their car set-ups for the weekend ahead.

But those runs were threatened as ponchos were being put on in the crowd on the Kemmel Straight, with rain in the air towards the end of the session.

A host of drivers had to take to the escape road at Les Combes after locking up at the end of the straight, and drivers began to slide through Eau Rouge where the rain was heaviest at that point.

Mick Schumacher came a cropper at Malmady too, skidding as he applied the throttle and changed direction, but he was able to slowly crawl through the gravel and get back on track.

Eventually though, the rain brought a premature end to the practice running as the drivers were all back in the pit lane with seven minutes to go, before re-emerging for a practice start in the final seconds.

In terms of pace though, signs were ominous for the rest of the field as Verstappen was well clear of the rest. He will be starting at the back of the field, but should not be counted out of contention come Sunday.

FP2 leaderboard

1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:45.507 20 laps
2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari + 0.862 21 laps
3 Lando Norris McLaren + 1.082 17 laps
4 Lance Stroll Aston Martin + 1.128 16 laps
5 Carlos Sainz Ferrari + 1.142 20 laps
6 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes + 1.386 18 laps
7 Fernando Alonso Alpine + 1.468 19 laps
8 George Russell Mercedes + 1.535 22 laps
9 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren + 1.748 18 laps
10 Sergio Perez Red Bull + 1.839 15 laps
11 Alex Albon Williams + 2.013 15 laps
12 Guanyu Zhou Alfa Romeo Racing + 2.110 21 laps
13 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri + 2.151 16 laps
14 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri + 2.275 19 laps
15 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin + 2.360 19 laps
16 Esteban Ocon Alpine + 2.437 21 laps
17 Kevin Magnussen Haas + 2.701 19 laps
18 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo Racing + 2.912 21 laps
19 Nicholas Latifi Williams + 3.105 14 laps
20 Mick Schumacher Haas + 4.434 23 laps

[All fastest lap times set on soft tyres]