Lewis Hamilton Tops Friday Free Practice Sessions Ahead of Belgian Grand Prix

Mercedes-AMG's number one shows promising pace in the early stages of the weekend.

Mark Thompson, Getty Images Sport

The second half of the 2017 Formula One season kicked off Friday in Belgium, at the famed Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps. With the day's practice sessions concluded, and everyone out of the pool, analysis and review of the day's events can begin. 

Free Practice 1 ended with Ferrari's Kimi Räikkönen topping the charts, his pace on the Pirelli Ultra Soft tires presumably helped by the comfort of his contract renewal confirmed for next season. 0.053 seconds behind him was Mercedes-AMG's Lewis Hamilton, who set his time on the Super Soft compound tires, and a tenth of a second adrift of Hamilton was championship leader Sebastian Vettel—who, like his teammate, was testing out the Ultra Soft tires. Partway through the session, Felipe Massa of Williams endured an ugly crash when curbs upset his car, and a correction came too late to save him from a double date with the gravel trap and tire wall.

Though Kimi fans were delighted to see their favorite Finn atop the timing charts after Free Practice 1, both Mercedes drivers had an answer to Räikkönen's pace in the day's second practice session, when they got some Ultra Soft stints of their own in.

The difference in tire compound allowed Hamilton to escalate his pace by eight-tenths of a second, and his teammate Valtteri Bottas to do so by more than 1.2 seconds. Red Bull Racing's Max Verstappen managed to eclipse the time set by Vettel in this session, as Verstappen managed to be one hundredth of a second quicker than Vettel on the same tire compound. Daniel Ricciardo's times stayed adrift of his teammate's due to an experimental low-drag setup that didn't pay off, and showed tremendous weakness in sector two.

If today's times are at all reflective of what we will see from qualifying tomorrow morning, Mercedes may be coming back from the summer break with the World Drivers' Championship in the bag. Their lead in the Constructors' Championship is comfortable enough for us to bet they won't lose their lead...unless Murphy's Law takes its toll.