Belgian GP 2016, Practice Two: Max Verstappen fastest as Mercedes focus on race strategy
Rosberg only sixth after setting his best time on slower medium tyres while Hamilton is just 13th ahead of his demotion to the back of the Spa grid; Hamilton and Alonso to start last
Last Updated: 29/08/16 10:40am
Max Verstappen delighted the Spa crowd by setting the pace in Friday practice for the Belgian GP as Mercedes focused on race simulations.
Rewarding the legions of Dutch fans who have crossed the border this weekend to watch their hero, who was born 50 miles away from the iconic circuit in the Ardennes Forest, Verstappen set the pace with a lap of 1:48.085 - two tenths of a second faster than Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo.
Force India's Nico Hulkenberg, who also set his fastest time on the supersoft compound, was third, half a second faster than Sebastian Vettel as the Scuderia struggled for pace and durability.
World championship rivals and Mercedes team-mates Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton were sixth and 13th fastest respectively. Hamilton's best time was set on the unmarked prototype tyres Pirelli are testing this week.
The session was overshadowed by confirmation that Mercedes had triggered a 30-place grid penalty for the world champion Hamilton after introducing two new engines for Hamilton's car and in doing so breaching his permitted allowance for the year.
Why were Mercedes so slow?
Although neither Hamilton nor Rosberg finished the day in the top five, Mercedes were fastest in morning practice and remain the overwhelming favourites to win the race.
The world champions opted against running the supersofts during the afternoon session and are believed to be planning to only use the soft and medium compounds on race day. Rosberg finished the session as the only driver to set his best time on the mediums.
Ferrari have selected seven sets of supersofts for this weekend, and just one set of mediums, for both Kimi Raikkonen and Vettel - a decision which may return to haunt the Scuderia if, as expected, the durability of the supersofts is limited to just a couple of laps due to the unexpectedly hot temperatures at Spa.
Crowded at the back
Hamilton isn't the only driver facing a grid demotion at Spa. Sauber's Marcus Ericsson will be relegated at least 10 places for a similar engine-related infringement, while Fernando Alonso was forced to change the upgraded engine Honda had only just fitted into his car for P1 after it developed a leak.
Mercedes are expected to introduce a third new engine when Saturday morning's Practice Three commences, which would guarantee that Hamilton will start from last. As it currently stands, Hamilton will line up on the back row alongside, but just ahead of, his former McLaren team-mate Alonso.
The Battle at Manor
After being outpaced by his new team-mate in first practice, Manor's Pascal Wehrlein bounced back in style during P2 to finish a second ahead of his fellow Mercedes protégé Esteban Ocon.
After the debutant impressed in the morning by beating Wehrlein by over a second, Wehrlein then delivered the lap of the day in the afternoon to take P11 for Manor with Ocon just 21st.
'Liking your work young man,' tweeted the approving Mercedes team.
Practice Two timesheet
1. Max Verstappen, Red Bull, 1:48.085, new supersofts
2. Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, 1:48.341, new supersofts
3. Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, 1:48.657, new supersofts
4. Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, 1:49.023, new supersofts
5. Sergio Perez, Force India, 1:19.100, new supersofts
6. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1:49.161, new softs
7. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1:49.244, new supersofts
8. Romain Grosjean, Haas, 1:49.419, new supersofts
9. Jenson Button, McLaren, 1:49.419, new supersofts
10. Esteban Gutierrez, Haas, 1:49.648, new supersofts
11. Pascal Wehrlein, Manor, 1:49.716, new supersofts
12: Fernando Alonso, McLaren, 1:49.772, new supersofts
13. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1:49.782, used prototype softs
14. Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso, 1:49.916, new supersofts
15. Marcus Ericsson, Sauber, 1:50.083, new supersofts
16. Valtteri Bottas, Williams, 1:50.151, new prototype softs
17. Felipe Massa, Williams, 1:50.157, new supersofts
18. Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso, 1:50.194, new supersofts
19. Kevin Magnussen, Renault, 1:50.375, new supersofts
20. Jolyon Palmer, Renault, 1:50.562, new supersofts
21. Esteban Ocon, Manor, 1:50.659, new supersofts
22. Felipe Nasr, Sauber, 1:50.719, new supersofts