Morning After: Ferrari Back in the Mix?

Just as the first half of the season started with so much promise for Ferrari, so has the second half after a strong showing in practice at Spa on Friday.

If someone had told you six months ago that Ferrari would come to Spa still searching for their first win of the season, you probably would’ve looked at them like they were in favour of re-introducing 2016-style elimination qualifying, and yet here we are, with the Scuderia still winless. Fortunately for them, they took a small step towards ending their drought this weekend in Spa.

One-two in both sessions, their closest competitors over eight tenths off their fastest time, the Scuderia seem to have a legitimate pace advantage over their rivals once more – well, over one lap, at least.

And therein lies the wrinkle. As good as the SF90 was on the short runs, the same can’t be said for its pace on the long runs. Indeed, that eight-tenths advantage in FP2 became a two-tenth deficit on soft-tyre race sims, with Lewis Hamilton’s session-best eight-lap stint averaging a 1:50.761 to Sebastian Vettel’s team-best 1:51.700 with the same tyre and amount of laps, while Valtteri Bottas averaged a 1:50.236 on the mediums (also eight laps) to Charles Leclerc’s 1:50.827 (six laps).

Even taking the usual grain of salt that comes with Friday practice, that’s not a great sign for the Scuderia’s chances in the race. They might be the clear favourites for qualifying, but all the straight-line speed in the world won’t help them if they can’t keep it up over 44 laps. For their sake, I hope they have something extra still up their sleeve, otherwise the podium could once more have a very silver sheen to it come Sunday…

Friday Figures

0.377 seconds. Gap between Max Verstappen and Alex Albon in FP2. Not bad for a first day in the car, I suppose.

One. Number of Renault-powered cars in the top-10. You sure you want that engine freeze, Cyril?

Three. More years for Sergio Perez at Racing Point, a good move for them, not sure it will quite work out the way he wants it to, though.

Quick Hits

Not a great start for Pierre Gasly back at Toro Rosso, slower than all but Kevin Magnussen and the Williams’. He’s probably still reeling from his demotion, and really, could you blame him?

I wouldn’t say it was surprising, but interesting nonetheless to see Nico Hulkenberg already being discussed as a potential hire for Guenther Steiner and Haas. Could we see him signed before the end of the season, or will they wait to see whether Romain Grosjean or Kevin Magnussen comes out on top in the championship?

Liberty might be trying to add a bit more “sex appeal” to F1, but I’m not sure this is what they had in mind…