Kimi Raikkonen topped the times ahead of Lewis Hamilton and championship leader Sebastian Vettel in Friday’s opening free practice for this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix.
On a clear bright day at the majestic Spa-Francorchamps circuit in the forests of the Belgian Ardennes, the Finn celebrated the confirmation of his retention by Ferrari for 2018 with a best lap time of one minute and 14.502 seconds.
His lap came with only five minutes remaining and lifted him clear of Hamilton of Mercedes by 0.053 seconds with Vettel third for Ferrari.
The four-time winner at the classic Belgian circuit timed his fastest lap to perfection as the top three were seven-tenths clear of the rest led by the two Red Bulls of Dutchman Max Verstappen and Australian Daniel Ricciardo.
Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas was sixth.
The session began with two-time former champion Fernando Alonso complaining of lack of power in his McLaren and nursing it back to the pits before Felipe Massa crashed on his first flying lap.
The Williams driver lost control of the rear end of his car at Les Combes and went through the gravel into the barriers, seriously damaging his machine in the process.
The session was red-flagged for three minutes to clear up the debris.
“I lost the car on the kerb,” said Massa, newly recovered from his ‘vertigo’ illness at last month’s Hungarian Grand Prix where he felt dizzy and had to sit out qualifying and the race.
He was unhurt in the accident and, after a medical check, was back in the team garage as Ricciardo and Raikkonen set the pace ahead of Bottas, Verstappen, Hamilton and Vettel.
Having spent the early minutes testing the ‘halo’ cockpit safety device, Hamilton swiftly made up for some lost time by sweeping to the top of the timesheets after 42 minutes, ahead of Ricciardo.
Bottas went top on softs with 30 minutes remaining before Hamilton, also on softs after switching from super-softs, had to abort a lap when the Finn slid off and glanced the barriers at Fagnes.
On his next clear lap, Hamilton went top by seven-tenths, a convincing display of his speed. Ricciardo, on ultra-softs, went second before Verstappen, in a newly-designed helmet, encouraged his ‘orange army’ by narrowly outpacing him.
With 14 minutes remaining, Vettel switched from softs to ultras to go second within 0.092 of Hamilton’s time and set up a close scrap with his title rival.