Nyck De Vries topped title rival Nicholas Latifi on their return from the summer break, in Free Practice at Spa-Francorchamps. The ART Grand Prix man laid down a marker for Round 9 as he looks to further cement his place at the top of the driver’s standings, with Latifi in 2nd and Louis Delétraz 3rd.
Nobuharu Matsushita led the cars out onto the track, with nearly a full cohort heading onto the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps at the start of the session, in 21 degree heat. When the times started to tumble, Nicholas Latifi led the order, with 1:59.892. His excellent early pace was all the more impressive given his exploits in F1 FP1, not half an hour beforehand.
The DAMS driver – along with his teammate Sérgio Sette Câmara - is sporting a very special tribute this weekend, in remembrance of team owner Jean Paul Driot, who sadly passed away during the last round, in Budapest.
The Canadian’s lead wouldn’t make the halfway mark, as De Vries set about topping his second Free Practice in as many rounds. The Championship leader set two green sectors on his way to a time of 1:59.509, more than 0.3s clear of Latifi in P2.
This was followed by spins from Giuliano Alesi and Mick Schumacher, which forced the latter out of the session early and left him in P7, with more than 10 minutes to go. This brought out a brief Virtual Safety Car.
The order remained unchanged when the VSC period ended, with De Vries leading Latifi, who was ahead of Delétraz, Sette Câmara and Jack Aitken. Meanwhile, F2 debutant Marino Sato was lying 19th as he focused on getting laps under his belt and becoming accustomed to his new wheels.
The session was ended early when Ralph Boschung’s Trident came to a halt on track and brought out a red flag, with five minutes to go. Free Practice ended under the red flag and handed De Vries the early bragging rights, after a strong opening session. Latifi remained in second ahead of Delétraz, Sette Câmara and Aitken, with Luca Ghiotto, Schumacher, Boschung, Alesi and Matsushita completing the top ten.
The Championship’s top two will go full throttle in Qualifying this afternoon at 455.pm local time, as they search for that extra edge going into the final part of the campaign.