Red Bulls Rise, Top Belgian Charts

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Max Verstappen led the opening day of Formula One practice at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium. (Red Bull Photo)
Max Verstappen led the opening day of Formula One practice at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium. (Red Bull Photo)
Max Verstappen led the opening day of Formula One practice at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium. (Red Bull Photo)

FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium – The Red Bull duo of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo topped the Formula One practice charts on Friday at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.

The Mercedes pair of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg opted not to utilize the fastest Pirelli supersoft tire, opening the door for someone else to lead the way during practice on Friday.

Red Bull Racing took advantage and shined, with Belgium’s own Verstappen finishing atop the charts with a 1:48.085 ahead of Ricciardo’s 1:48.341.

“It has been a very positive Friday for us,” Verstappen said. “We showed great pace today in comparison with other teams, though it’s hard to say what Mercedes is like. Of course I’m happy to be first in front of so many Dutch fans but it’s still not qualifying and not the race so let’s see. When I went up to first position in the second practice the fans were all cheering me on with their flags. It definitely gives me a boost and motivates me a lot. This track is very difficult for setting up the car balance so I also had some struggles but at the end it paid off with the last set up change we did. We’ll see what happens tomorrow. I’m sure we can improve even more, but we have to wait and see what the others are doing. So far we had a very good start to the weekend.”

Nico Hulkenberg was third fastest for Force India, more than half a second behind Verstappen’s fastest time. The Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel was fourth fastest, with the second Force India driven by Sergio Perez timing in fifth.

Rosberg was fastest for Mercedes in sixth, but he only utilized the soft tires and will likely go faster when it comes time for qualifying on Saturday in Belgium.

Hamilton was only 13th fastest on the day after just using medium tires and Pirelli’s unmarked prototype tires. He’ll be forced to start from the rear of the grid on Sunday because of a 30-place grid penalty for using a new power unit and new additional parts.

Fernando Alonso will also start from the rear after installing a new power unit. Marcus Ericsson will also lose 10 positions because of a new turbocharger.

Earlier on Friday, Rosberg and Hamilton topped the opening practice of the day. The Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen was third, followed by Perez and Vettel.