Ferrari fastest as F1 returns
MAKING HIS MARK: Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso set the fastest lap time in the first free practice session ahead of the 2013 Belgian GP on Sunday, August 25. Image: AFP
SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium - Ferrari's Fernando Alonso lapped fastest in a weather-affected Belgian GP first practice on Friday (Aug 23) as Formula 1 drivers shrugged off the long August break and got back up to speed.
The Spaniard, third in the championship after 10 of 19 races, lapped the longest circuit on the calendar in a best time of 1min55.198sec in a familiar Spa mixture of wet/dry conditions.
The Force India cars of Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil were second and third on the time sheets, with the top three all setting their comparatively slow times in the final half hour of an incident-free session.
Morning rain and occasional drizzle, interspersed with cloud and sunshine, dampened part of the fast and flowing Ardennes Forest circuit while a dry line emerged through the middle sector.
The McLarens of Briton Jenson Button and Mexican Sergio Perez showed encouraging signs of progress, despite the team backing away from earlier assertions that they could challenge for a victory this weekend. Perez was fourth fastest while Button, 2012's winner from pole, ended up 14th.
Red Bull's championship leader Sebastian Vettel, who has a 38-point lead over Lotus's Kimi Raikkonen, was sixth-fastest behind fellow-German Nico Rosberg in the Mercedes. Vettel, who returned from the break with his hair dyed bright blond, had the odd spin on the slippery surface without drama.
Raikkonen, who cried off sick from media engagements on Thursday after weeks of speculation about his future and talk of moves to Red Bull or Ferrari, and Lotus team mate Romain Grosjean propped up the time sheets.
Finland's Heikki Kovalainen, dropped by Caterham at the end of 2012, made an appearance for the team in place of regular race driver Charles Pic and was 16th quickest.
Times from the first free practice session ahead of the 2013 Belgian F1 GP at Spa-Francorchamps
1 Fernando Alonso (Spain) Ferrari 1min55.198
2 Paul Di Resta (Britain) Force India 1min55.224
3 Adrian Sutil (Germany) Force India 1min55.373
4 Sergio Perez (Mexico) McLaren 1min55.518
5 Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes 1min55.614
6 Sebastian Vettel (Germany) RedBull 1min55.636
7 Esteban Gutierrez (Mexico) Sauber 1min55.954
8 Nico Hulkenberg (Germany) Sauber 1min56.110
9 Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Toro Rosso 1min56.770
10 Valtteri Bottas (Finland) Williams 1min56.858
11 Felipe Massa (Brazil) Ferrari 1min56.863
12 Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) Williams 1min57.081
13 Jean-Eric Vergne (France) Toro Rosso 1min57.084
14 Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren 1min57.281
15 Lewis Hamilton (Britain) Mercedes 1min57.358
16 Heikki Kovalainen (Finland) Caterham 1min57.821
17 Giedo van der Garde (Netherlands) Caterham 1min57.887
18 Max Chilton (Britain) Marussia 1min58.600
19 Mark Webber (Australia) RedBull 1min58.929
20 Jules Bianchi (France) Marussia 1min59.209
21 Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Lotus 1min59.441
22 Romain Grosjean (France) Lotus 2min03.176
Stay with Wheels24 for the 2013 Belgian GP weekend.