Formula One: Verstappen on top in Red Bull one-two

Red Bull Racing's Belgian-Dutch driver Max Verstappen drives his car during the first practice session at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Spa on Aug 26, 2016
Red Bull Racing's Belgian-Dutch driver Max Verstappen drives his car during the first practice session at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Spa on Aug 26, 2016 PHOTO: AFP

(AFP) - Dutch teenager Max Verstappen delighted his army of fans in the forests of the Ardennes on Friday afternoon when he topped the times in second free practice for this weekend's Belgian Grand Prix.

The 18-year-old Red Bull driver, who was born 50 kilometres away from the sprawling and majestic Spa-Francorchamps circuit at Hasselt in Belgium, clocked a best lap of one 1 min 48.085sec.

That allowed him to outpace Australian team-mate Daniel Ricciardo by two-tenths as the Renault-powered outfit delivered a strong one-two showing.

It was the third time in Verstappen's brief Formula One career that he had topped the session times and did so in front of thousands of supporters camping under the trees in the unexpected heat-wave conditions.

German Nico Huelkenberg was third-fastest for Force India ahead of his compatriot Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari, Mexican Sergio Perez in the second Force India and championship contender Nico Rosberg of Mercedes.

Rosberg had been fastest in a Mercedes one-two ahead of championship leader and defending champion Lewis Hamilton in the morning session, but both men concentrated on preparation for the race with long runs on medium tyres.

 

Hamilton, as he had in the morning, had a new power unit installed and will face a massive 30-grid penalty for the race along with several other penalised drivers including two-time champion Fernando Alonso of McLaren Honda.

Finn Kimi Raikkonen, newly married during the month-long European summer break, was seventh in the second Ferrari ahead of Frenchman Romain Grosjean of Haas, Briton Jenson Button of McLaren and Mexican Esteban Gutierrez in the second Haas.

Hamilton, clearly focused on his race rather than qualifying, was 13th, one place behind Alonso, who was 12th for McLaren having missed out on the morning session due to a water leak.

The team was forced to change his power unit and install a new one, which led to him taking a grid penalty.

Both Rosberg, who trails Hamilton by 19 points in the title race with nine races remaining, and Hamilton were given new Mercedes power-units for the opening free session, a move that the team confirmed will bring Hamilton at least a 15-place penalty on the grid.

After taking a second power unit for the second session, Hamilton is expected to have another installed for third practice on Saturday morning, actions that may lead to him taking an overall record grid penalty of 75 places.

A series of engine failures early in the year meant Hamilton quickly reached the limit of new parts he is allowed for the season while Rosberg, who won the opening four races without problems, is within the limits.

Mercedes policy is aimed to be as fair as possible to both drivers and to give Hamilton sufficient new parts to last for the rest of the season with all of his penalties served at one race.