It was kind of obvious, wasn’t it? F1 visits one of its fastest circuits, and the teams with the best engines dominate. In the year of the power unit, Mercedes has been head and shoulders above the rest.
Seeing the Mercedes works team at the top of the timesheets isn’t exactly breaking news, but the fact that seven of the top ten cars in both practice sessions were powered by a Silver Arrow unit certainly acts as an impressive statement of intent from these teams.
Fernando Alonso was the only driver to put up a serious challenge to the Mercedes cars, finishing third in both sessions for Ferrari. Kimi Raikkonen, Daniil Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo were the only other drivers to finish inside the top ten without a Mercedes power unit.
For McLaren, it was a very successful day. The team has struggled to keep up with the front-runners this season despite making a very promising start at the Australian Grand Prix, where Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button finished second and third. Today at Spa, the team showed some encouraging signs, as Button came home in P4 and P5 in FP1 and FP2 respectively. Magnussen also reached the top ten in both sessions
Williams was expected to challenge Mercedes at the front this weekend, and although the first session saw just one of its cars finish inside the top ten, Felipe Massa finished fourth in FP2 with Valtteri Bottas sixth.
Force India once again appears to be in contention for points, with Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez finishing inside the top ten, but the team may struggle to outscore nearest-rivals McLaren at Spa this weekend.
At Spa, we are seeing the clear divides between the different power units. Expect Red Bull to struggle this weekend with its Renault power unit, especially down the Kemmel straight.