Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton has gone fastest in free practice for the Belgian Grand Prix on P Zero Purple ultrasoft tyres, beating last year’s FP2 benchmark by 3.3 seconds.

Hamilton’s best time of 1m44.753s also beat last year’s pole (set on the supersoft) and took him very close to the all-time Formula 1 record for the fastest lap at Spa: 1m44.503s, which dates back to Q2 in 2009.

The afternoon’s FP2 session peaked at 34 degrees of track temperature and 27 degrees ambient, then cooled down until heavy rain fell at the end of the session – with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo the first to try the intermediate tyres.

Mario Isola - Head Of Car Racing
“Although it’s still very early in the weekend, we can already see that there’s around a one-second performance gap between supersoft and ultrasoft, while the soft compound appears to be an effective race tyre too. With many drivers taking full advantage of all three compounds available in their pre-race selections, a number of different race strategies are possible, so gathering as much information as possible during free practice was paramount. The typical Spa weather, with rain falling during the long runs, made it hard to fully assess tyre degradation. While Hamilton’s fastest time on the ultrasoft was remarkable, close to the all-time Spa record, initial projections of race pace seem closely matched between the frontrunners. As usual at Spa, it looks like we’re in for an unpredictable weekend.”