Verstappen leads 2nd practice at Belgian GP, Ricciardo 2nd

Sports

Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas of Finland steers his car during the first practice session prior to the Formula One Grand Prix at the Spa-Francorchamps racetrack in Spa, Belgium Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. (Stephanie Lecocq, Pool via AP)

SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium (AP) — Red Bull driver Max Verstappen posted the fastest time in the second practice session for the Belgian Grand Prix on Friday.

Verstappen was .048 seconds ahead of Renault driver Daniel Ricciardo and .096 ahead of Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton. The Mercedes driver has won four of the first six races and leads the championship by 37 points from second-placed Verstappen.

With about 20 minutes left, Ricciardo parked his Renault on the side after an apparent engine failure.

The session was briefly held up shortly after when some debris fell onto the track at Turn 1, with race stewards rushing over to remove a couple of loose advertising hoardings.

Conditions were overcast all day, with light rain falling in the afternoon on the 7-kilometer (4.3-mile) track nestled in the Ardennes forest.

It was another miserable day for struggling Ferrari, with Charles Leclerc 15th and four-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel in 17th.

In the first practice, Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas led by .069 seconds from Hamilton.

Bottas had a late puncture to his front left tire in that session. But it was due to debris rather than the sort of tire degradation issues that caused him to puncture near to the end of the British GP on Aug. 2.

Haas could not even get its drivers out for a lap in the morning because of engine problems.

There is a third and final practice on Saturday ahead of qualifying in the afternoon.

All races have been held without fans so far because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Last year more than 250,000 fans — including swarms of orange-clad Dutch fans supporting Verstappen— crammed onto camp sites with smells from impromptu barbecues and fast-food stalls filling the air.

But some fans might be coming back next month in Italy.

Tuscany region president Enrico Rossi said Friday that local health authorities have approved 3,000 fans for the Tuscan Grand Prix on Sept. 13.

The circuit has three big stands that can hold 1,000 people each in accordance with national rules on public events.

Fans will have their temperature taken upon arrival and wear masks if it is approved at government level on Saturday.

There will be a smattering of spectators at the Italian GP in Monza a week earlier, too, with 250 health workers invited to attend in recognition of their efforts during the pandemic.

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