Valtteri Bottas was the quickest man around Spa-Francorchamps this morning, putting himself two tenths clear of the next fastest man, race winner last-time-out Daniel Ricciardo. Following the pre-session rain, Bottas, like the rest of the grid, stayed in the shelter of his garage and willed others to go out to dry the wet track surface, a task which would essentially lead to wasted laps. The two Marussias and Kobayashi stand-in Andre Lotterer were the only three people to go out in the first half of the session, each setting a slow lap time before returning to the pits.
Eventually Esteban Gutierrez came out for Sauber following a long stint of track silence, and showed the others that the track had dried sufficiently, prompting the remaining drivers to emerge from their shelters. Following their first few flying laps, the usual suspects (Hamilton, Rosberg and Alonso) were near the top, but it was Bottas who held the top time provisionally. He traded the honour with the two Mercedes drivers and Fernando Alonso several times before putting in a session topping 1.49.465. As a reference, Jenson Button’s pole lap from 2012 was a 1.47.573.
Behind Bottas was Ricciardo who hopes to repeat his Hungarian Grand Prix victory this weekend and was himself followed by Championship leader Nico Rosberg, Kimi Raikkonen, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso. Daniil Kvyat, who was one of the session’s leaders briefly, continued his impressive form and ended his session in seventh, only four tenths off the fastest time. Jenson Button was eighth while Felipe Massa and Jean-Eric Vergne rounded out the top ten. Sebastian Vettel finished thirteenth while Pastor Maldonado, who was hospitalised following a shunt during yesterday’s FP2 session, finished seventeenth. The Caterham duo filled out the bottom of the timesheets, nearly two tenths off the Marussias ahead of them.