Ferrari set Spa pace as Perez signs new deal but sees car catch fire



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31 Aug 2019, 02:02 IST
SergioPerez - cropped
Sergio Perez pledged his future to Racing Point by signing a new contract.

Max Verstappen predicted Ferrari would be difficult to stop at the Belgian Grand Prix after Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel led the way in practice.

With Formula One back after a mid-season break, Ferrari were predictably strong at Spa, where their car’s speed on the long sections gives them an advantage over their rivals.

Leclerc topped the time sheets with a fastest lap of one minute 44.123 seconds, 0.630secs quicker than team-mate Vettel in second practice.

They outpaced the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas and championship leader Lewis Hamilton, who sat third and fourth respectively, both over two-tenths of a second further back than Vettel.

Racing Point’s Sergio Perez, on the day it was confirmed he would be staying with the team until 2022, was fifth despite a worrying engine fire, a place ahead of Red Bull’s Verstappen.

Having won two of the four races immediately prior to the four-week break, Verstappen was frustrated to be down on power but said that should change with a switch of engine for the weekend.

“I don’t think we can beat Ferrari but at least we can be closer,” Verstappen said, according to the F1 official website.

“I think this track definitely suits them a bit better than us. They are very strong. They gain a lot of lap time on the straight here, but I think that’s not a surprise. We’ll just try to do the best we can from our side.

“I don’t expect to beat Ferrari, but hopefully we can be a bit closer to Mercedes because it seems they were also a bit off compared to Ferrari.”

Perez had plenty on his plate on Friday, not least the fact flames burst from the rear of his car towards the end of second practice.

The 29-year-old initially said of the fiery end to his session: “It doesn’t look good – we’ll see what’s going to happen and what we have to do in order to get it back in qualifying.

“I have no clue about it, not even the team does yet, but not looking too optimistic.”

He added, in a Racing Point statement: “We are still investigating the problem at the end of second practice, but it looks like a drop in oil pressure which killed the engine. Hopefully it won’t impact on the rest of the weekend too much, but we need to wait and see if anything is damaged and needs to be changed.”

The engine blow-up might have been a worrying moment, but the Mexican driver sees cause to be optimistic about his renewed commitment to the team, five years after joining during their previous stint as Force India.

He will continue to be a team-mate of Lance Stroll, and Perez said: “I’ve been working together with this group of people for a long time now and they have become my second family.

“Together we have enjoyed a tremendous amount of success and we share the same passion for racing. I have been impressed with the direction the team has taken over the last 12 months and that gives me confidence for the future.

“I believe the best times are still to come and I look forward to celebrating plenty of podiums in the years ahead.”

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