SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium (AP) — Lewis Hamilton increased the pace on quicker tires and posted the fastest time in the second practice session for the Belgian Grand Prix on Friday.
The Mercedes driver had been second quickest behind Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen in the morning’s first practice, but that was with Raikkonen on ultra softs and Hamilton on the slightly slower softs.
With both on ultra softs in P2, Mercedes showed its extra pace with Hamilton clocking 1 minute, 44.753 seconds — putting him .262 clear of Raikkonen and .427 ahead of Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas.
In a further boost for Hamilton, championship leader Sebastian Vettel was only fifth behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
Toward the end, thunderous rainfall drenched the vast 7-kilometer (4.3-mile) Spa circuit that cuts through the forest of Ardennes, enveloping it in darkness.
“Aquaplaning already,” Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo said. “Lot of water everywhere.”
Ricciardo then sought refuge back in the team garage, along with the other drivers, as the session petered out.
Third practice is Saturday morning followed by qualifying, where Hamilton looks to equal F1 great Michael Schumacher’s pole position record of 68.
Vettel leads Hamilton in their close-fought title race by 14 points heading into Sunday’s race.
Raikkonen went quickest in the morning after having repairs on his Ferrari. The Finnish driver went into the garage for about 20 minutes after an apparent suspension problem, but came back and overtook Hamilton’s time.
The morning session was interrupted after about 20 minutes when Felipe Massa lost control of his Williams and went off track into the gravel, buckling a couple of wheels. The Brazilian driver, who missed last month’s Hungarian GP because of vertigo, sat out P2 because the team had to change his chassis.
When P1 restarted, Hamilton complained of overheating on his tires, while Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas also went into the gravel. It meant Bottas also had to come in for some small repairs, and he placed sixth fastest.
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