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  1. F1

Formula 1 - Motorsport: What we learned from practice at the Belgian GP

The two practice sessions for the upcoming Belgian Grand Prix took place on Friday afternoon, with Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen topping the timesheets.

Changeable weather in the first session saw Sainz narrowly edge out his teammate Charles Leclerc, with Verstappen in third.

A bombshell was dropped after, with the news that Verstappen and Leclerc will be relegated to the back of the grid for Sunday's race owing to a breach of engine regulations.

That didn't put off the Dutchman, who finished top of the second session, a very impressive eight-tenths clear of the pack.

What:Belgian Grand Prix
Where:Spa-Francorchamps
When:When: Sunday 28th August, 14:00
How to watch:Sky Sports F1
Odds (race):Carlos Sainz 5/2, Lewis Hamilton 11/4, Max Verstappen 7/2, George Russell 11/2, Sergio Perez 13/2

Verstappen and Leclerc will face an uphill battle on Sunday

Just after the completion of the first practice, it was announced that Verstappen Leclerc were among six drivers who will face grid penalties on Sunday for using too many engine components.

Reliability has been an issue for both main contenders this season and they have paid the price at the Belgian Grand Prix, meaning it will be a steep challenge on raceday.

At best, the two could compete for 15th place on the grid, although they will still feel confident they can make progress with Spa, a circuit that provides overtaking opportunities as well DRS, particularly on the long-straight after the pulsating Eau Rouge corner.

Last season's champion was over eight-tenths of a second quicker than the rest following free practice two, something that will give him the confidence required to attack the race.

Verstappen has won each of the past two Grand Prixs in the 2022 season but he certainly has a battle on his hands to make it three from three.

Sainz handed an excellent opportunity

With Verstappen and Leclerc forced to attack from behind, Carlos Sainz has a great chance to reignite his fading title hopes at Spa this weekend, and he will have been encouraged by his showing in FP1.

The Spaniard, who won his maiden race this season after crossing the line first at Silverstone, was shades ahead of his teammate in the first practice and will be targeting top spot in Saturday's qualifying session.

His main battle will be between himself and Red Bull's Sergio Perez with the Mercedes cars slightly behind in terms of raw pace - Lewis Hamilton could only manage sixth quickest in FP2 with teammate George Russell eighth (though he did finish fourth in the first session)

Perez struggled for pace on Friday, finishing tenth in both sessions, meaning Sainz could be the man to beat on Sunday.

He has shown potential to be a real front runner on occasion this season and his willingness to race hard was on display for his British Grand Prix win when he defied team orders to overtake Leclerc.

However, he has also been the victim of misfortune in terms of reliability issues - the Austrian Grand Prix being a prime example - meaning Leclerc has often been favoured by the Scuderia team.

However, a quick time in FP1 should stand him in good stead.

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McLaren enjoy a productive Friday

Plenty of eyes are on McLaren this weekend following the news that Daniel Ricciardo is set to leave the team at the end of the season.

The Australian was brought in at the start of 2021 to partner Lando Norris with high expectations in place for a team that had added experience and race wins to youthful energy.

However, despite some positive results, including a race win at Monza last year, Ricciardo has generally been outperformed by his younger teammate and the decision was made to part company at the end of the year.

He will now feel as though he has a point to prove and a race seat to secure for 2023, with Alpine and Williams both linked with his signature.

On Friday, Ricciardo posted a seventh and ninth in the two sessions as McLaren aim to get him into Q3 for only the fifth time in 2022.

Norris was third quickest in FP2 showing that McLaren may be the best of the rest in terms of midfield teams, but the 22-year-old - who is half Belgian - is one of the six drivers who will drop down the grid owing to engine penalties.

Weather could throw plans into chaos

Conditions at Spa are often unpredictable, with heavy rain almost becoming a staple of the weekend despite the fact it takes place in summer.

That was no different in FP1 as the rain came down during a red flag break to clear Kevin Magnussen's car after an electrical issue caused it to stop.

Intermediates were thrown on by the teams towards the end of the session but that obviously led to no improvement in the times.

Forecasts are similar for Saturday's qualifying meaning there could be a very topsy turvy grid for the race.

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