Ferrari emerged as the top contender in the qualifying simulation, lapping on competitive times throughout FP1 and FP2 in Spa. The SF90 was expected to be compatible with the features of the Belgian circuit, hence this leg and the Italian GP do stand for golden opportunities for the Italian outfit.
The Ferrari duo blitzed the opposition in both free practices, with Vettel having the upper hand on his teammate for FP1 and Leclerc returning the favour in the following session. The race car featured a number of significant aero updates today, giving priority to aerodynamics before the third power unit specification is introduced in Monza. Ferrari decided to go down a different path, as most of the teams have brought an engine upgrade here in Spa rather than waiting for the second track favouring the horsepower.
The pressure on the shoulders of Vettel and Leclerc is high, as within the next two races there has to be a winning reaction from Ferrari. The Maranello-based team is facing a make-it-or-break-it situation, now that Mercedes and Hamilton have taken off towards both titles, and Red Bull made the most of it in the races where it could perform at its best.
Charles Leclerc feels that there is still more to come from Ferrari’s competitors, as per usual on Friday. What the Italian team needs to work on are the long runs, therefore we can assume that Ferrari’s hopes and confidence are rooted in qualifying. “It was quite a good first day for us after the holidays. -he said- I really like this circuit and enjoy driving here. The track is quite long, has all types of corners and there’s a very unique flow to it. Despite our good positions in free practice, we do have to stay realistic and expect our rivals to be very competitive tomorrow.
"Our qualifying pace was strong today, but we still have some work ahead of us in improving it over the long runs. If we are quick on the straights, we will hopefully have some good opportunities for overtaking on Sunday, which is a positive. The last few Grands Prix have been great, with a lot of battles, so I hope that this race will be another exciting one.”
Sebastian Vettel shares Leclerc’s feelings on the fact that Ferrari can still progress throughout the weekend, especially on its main weakness, the race simulation.
“It was a positive day and it’s great to be back in the car, especially at a track like this. The feeling from the cockpit was good, but I think there is still room for improvement. Let’s not forget it’s only Friday and it will only get serious tomorrow afternoon and then Sunday when it matters. On a quick lap, the performance was okay, but the race is not just one lap and so we have to work on improving our race pace, especially in the second sector. In today’s two sessions, we were sliding a bit too much in the middle sector and so for the race it will be important to optimise the tyre behaviour. We still have work to do tomorrow.”