It’s raining in Belgium but that hasn’t stopped Michael Schumacher celebrating 20 years in the sport with a pace-setting drive in the first practice for the Belgian Grand Prix this weekend.
Schumacher and his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg were the only two drivers able to record a time before heavy rain, which claimed several victims.
Scot Paul di Resta, on his first Belgian outing, went off track causing a red flag to be brought out while the Force India was recovered and Bruno Senna, controversially brought into the Renault team in place of Nick Heidfield, crashed at turn nine, spinning into a tyre wall and ending up in 23rd place.
The wet conditions prevented teams from learning a great deal after the mid-season three-week break, and even though there was no further rain after the initial shower, drivers steered clear of dry-weather tyres. McLaren in particular were disappointed that the conditions left them none the wiser about the effect of a new rear wing and a redesigned exhaust.
The fastest driver on intermediate tyres in those conditions was McLaren's Jenson Button with a lap time of two minutes 2.740 seconds just ahead of Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel. Red Bull are looking for an elusive win after a string of disappointments since June. McLaren's Lewis Hamilton was fifth fastest overall, ahead of Force India's Adrian Sutil, who will be replaced in the second session by reserve driver Nico Hulkenberg.
Mark Webber was 16th fastest overall, six seconds slower than teammate Vettel, with championship rival Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso 11th.
Heavy rain is forecast to disrupt Friday afternoon's second session, but dry weather is predicted for qualifying on Saturday and the race on Sunday.
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