SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium, Aug 30 (Reuters) - Sebastian Vettel led team mate Charles Leclerc at the top of the timesheets, as Ferrari dominated Friday’s opening practice session for the Belgian Formula One Grand Prix.
The German lapped the 7-km track in one minute, 44.574 seconds, beating Leclerc by 0.214 seconds.
Max Verstappen, enjoying plenty of support from his orange-clad Dutch fans, was the Ferrari pair’s closest challenger in third.
His new team mate Alexander Albon was an impressive fourth, less than a tenth slower than Verstappen on his Red Bull debut.
Five-times world champion Lewis Hamilton was sixth, behind his Finnish team mate Valtteri Bottas in fifth.
The Mercedes pair were using the slower medium compound tyre compared to Ferrari and Red Bull, who used the more grippy soft tyres.
It was far from a smooth session for Hamilton, who is 62 points clear of Bottas in the overall standings, with Mercedes pitting him to fit a new throttle pedal to his car.
He only set a timed lap some 25 minutes from the end of the session after being pulled into the garage for a second time when Mercedes lost car-to-pit telemetry from his car.
Canadian Lance Stroll was seventh for Racing Point ahead of Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo.
The Australian and team mate Nico Hulkenberg are among six drivers who will drop places on the grid due to engine-related penalties, with all manufacturers barring Ferrari introducing upgraded engines.
Sergio Perez was ninth in the other Racing Point car. Carlos Sainz rounded out the top 10 for McLaren.
Kimi Raikkonen, nursing a pulled muscle in his left leg, was 13th for Alfa Romeo.
The team had called up reserve driver Marcus Ericsson to be on standby as a precaution in case the Finn could not drive.
Pierre Gasly, back at Toro Rosso after losing his Red Bull seat to Albon, was 18th in Friday’s session, which was run in bright sunshine and largely uneventful.
Stroll’s Racing Point car lost some of its bodywork at high speed, triggering a brief virtual safety car.
Vettel, winner of 52 races, has not tasted victory since last year’s race in Belgium.
He is hoping to end his victory drought this weekend with his Ferrari aerodynamically suited to the long, flat-out blasts and fast sweeps of the Spa track. (Editing by Toby Davis)