A relatively smooth Friday in both practice sessions for McLaren Honda. Both sides of the garage opted to use both sessions to conduct aero evaluations and work on various set-ups and balance configurations for the rest of the weekend.
In FP1, both drivers reported issues with the DRS, which led to a couple of brief stoppages. Despite an additional short hiatus for a red flag, as well as set-up changes between runs, both were able to clock up good mileage to prepare the team for qualifying and beyond. At his home race, Stoffel finished the session in 10th position, and Fernando in 13th.
The second session began productively, with further evaluations and handling changes. In typical Spa style, the weather turned on its head 20 minutes before the end of FP2, drenching the track quick enough to render it too saturated even for Wet compound tyres. Thus, the team elected to conclude both drivers' running early in order to avoid taking any unnecessary risks on track. Fernando set the session's 11th fastest time, while Stoffel finished the day in 14th.
Fernando Alonso: "Spa is probably the best circuit in the world, and every lap you do here is magic. Having said that, we lose so much on the straights, but then we gain in the corners, so it's a difficult weekend for us here.
"We didn't have a great day today, especially in the first session, where we had some issues. The second session was business as usual and we eventually got to a reasonable car, which we can work on tonight with the engineers and try to find some tenths for tomorrow. When it started raining, we went out in the wet conditions to check how the car would behave in case there's more rain over the weekend. We didn't expect it to rain that much, so I quickly came back into the pits to bring the car home safely.
"We need a good qualifying, a good start and a good strategy to make everything perfect if we want to take points, and we need to be focussed and concentrated. It's going to be difficult, but maybe the weather will help us - mixed conditions would be ideal."
Stoffel Vandoorne: "The feeling in the car was quite positive today, the handling felt quite good. From my position, this weekend we know we are starting last, so we had a bit of a different run programme today compared to a usual Friday, concentrating more on high-fuel runs to set up the car for the race. That's where our main focus is for this weekend, and hopefully with a bit of changeable weather we can still have a good result.
"The penalty doesn't affect my motivation at all. It's a shame that it's happened in Spa, but it's the way it is. The penalties were inevitable considering the issues we've had at the beginning of the season, so it was always going to be like this. We need to think about the future, and hopefully it will help us at other grands prix.
"I feel confident about the rest of the season. As usual, there are circuits that will suit us better and circuits that will not suit us as much - but when the chance is there to grab some points, we need to take advantage of that."
Eric Boullier: "Today was a relatively productive day despite the stoppage for rain, and we were able to conduct a number of useful evaluations on the chassis side with aero and handling. Spa is a tough circuit on the cars, and we want to make sure we're as prepared as possible for the weekend ahead.
"I'm pleased that we managed to run reliably in both sessions - it's given us useful information to take forward into tomorrow's all-important qualifying session. We know that Stoffel will unfortunately be starting at the back, but for Fernando a good grid slot will be key to a solid result on Sunday. For Stoffel, we're focusing on giving him the best race car we can for his home grand prix, and he put a solid performance today in front of his home crowd.
"As we can see, the weather is typically unpredictable here at Spa, and conditions can change rapidly. We're working hard to optimise our set-up for all eventualities, and a bit of rain on Saturday could really spice things up for qualifying. And that means on Sunday, anything could happen."
Yusuke Hasegawa: "Today we used the updated PU for both drivers in FP1 and FP2. I'm satisfied that we were able to confirm the effectiveness of the updates we brought here, without any major issues. I think it was a positive day overall. I'm also happy that both drivers finished close to the top ten, even though we expect a tough weekend at this power-hungry circuit.
"It's a shame that Stoffel has to start with grid penalties at his first home race in Formula 1. However, we decided as a team to change his PU in order to introduce the updates as early as possible. In spite of the situation, he showed solid running in front of his home crowd today. Fernando improved his position in the afternoon session and I think both drivers are in good shape going into Saturday's qualifying.
"With the famous Spa weather, the weekend may still be tricky. That said, I think we have a chance for both drivers to get some points from the race."
Check out our Friday gallery from Spa, here.