Belgian Grand Prix: Verstappen sets pace ahead of Leclerc in practice

The Dutchman, who looks well on course to make it consecutive world titles after taking an 80-point lead over Leclerc into the summer break, was in a league of his own on Friday as he went 0.862secs than the Ferrari.

Lando Norris was third on the timing sheets, more than a second off Verstappen, with Lance Stroll in fifth ahead of Carlos Sainz, who led the way in the opening session of the day.

Lewis Hamilton was just over a tenth quicker than his teammate George Russell, with the Mercedes drivers sixth and eighth respectively.

There will be plenty of optimism in the Mercedes garage heading into the weekend though, after it was confirmed Verstappen and Leclerc will start Sunday’s race at the back of the grid.

The pair, along with Norris, Valtteri Bottas, Esteban Ocon and Mick Schumacher, have incurred engine penalties and so the race looks set to be wide open.

Sergio Perez and Sainz are the only drivers apart from Verstappen and Leclerc to win a race this season and while they both look to have a big chance to double up, the Mercedes duo will be hoping to make a significant impact in the final nine races of the year.

“We are in a position now where we can probably fight for second in both championships,” Russell said.

“Obviously we go in with the fighting spirit and we want to win every race and the championship but being realistic Red Bull and Max are doing an exceptional job and they are a long way ahead of everyone else.

“But I guess we want to be the highest points scoring team in the second half of the season. That has to be our target.”

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