Rain was not expected for the start of the second Free Practice session, but there was a light smattering of cloud that complimented the sun at the beginning, although it was expected that some showers could be a factor later on.
The Spa-Francorchamps circuit is the longest on the Formula 1 calendar, and widely regarded as one of the best in modern Formula 1. It is a steep learning curve for many drivers, especially those who do not have experience of the track.
André Lotterer performed well in FP1, outpacing team-mate Ericsson with the German's experience in the WEC proving incredibly valuable. Max Chilton, originally replaced by Alexander Rossi due to 'contractual issues' at the start of the weekend, would return to his race seat following the earlier issues being resolved.
Once the green light was displayed and the session began, it became apparent that Sebastian Vettel wouldn't be going anywhere in a hurry thanks to his car being without a gearbox and engine, due to an electrical fault.
It was Max Chilton who was first out, trying to gain crucial running in his Marussia following missing the first session, with the Briton completing an installation lap before returning to the pit-lane. Kevin Magnussen set the first flying lap of the session, with a 1.52.677 on the Medium compound of tyres, with other lap-times following from Bianchi and Lotterer.
Pastor Maldonado was the first casualty of the session, with the Venezuelan driver losing the rear of the car coming out of Turn 9 and colliding heavily with the barrier, with the Lotus ending up in the run-off area at Pouhon. The incident caused the red flag to be brought out whilst the stricken E22 was removed and track repairs made.
The session was restarted at 14.15 Local Time, with a flurry of drivers leaving the pit-lane.
Lap-times were quickly posted the vast majority of drivers posting low 1.52s, before Hamilton popped to the top of the screen with a 1.51.989, followed by Rosberg, Massa, Button, Kvyat, Magnussen, Sutil, Vergne, Grosjean and Perez, with 1 hour and 8 minutes remaining.
The reason behind the on-track action early on was due to the threatening clouds that loomed overhead towards the rear of the circuit, with the chance of rain ever-growing.
With just over an hour remaining of the session, we saw Esteban Gutierrez spin off at the flat-out left-hand kink of Blanchimont before the Bus Stop chicane, with the Sauber C33 just avoiding the barrier before coming to a halt, bringing out the red flag once more. The team-radio revealed that a seized gearbox was to blame for the Mexican's demise.
The session once again resumed with 55 minutes remaining on the clock, and it became apparent that Kimi Raikkonen would need to put in some more running as the Finnish driver had currently only completed four laps in the session so far.
With under 50 minutes remaining, a lot of drivers decided to opt for the softer compound of tyres and lower fuel loads to gauge an idea of qualifying times now that the track had began to rubber in. All drivers on this strategy improved their lap-times with Button leading, followed by Kvyat, Magnussen and Hulkenberg, with Hamilton behind who had only ran on the Mediums.
Rosberg decided to try the same method and blitzed Button's best time by a staggering 0.8 seconds, who was just ahead of Bottas' Williams by 0.02 seconds. Meanwhile, Hamilton set a corker of a time, over 0.6 seconds ahead of Rosberg, and 1.1 ahead of Massa, who had just popped a time in ahead of Button, although it was short-lived as Alonso went best-of-the-rest and claimed 3rd position.
Despite this wave of improvement, as the session began to fall into the last stages, a lot of drivers then decided to focus on their race strategies, meaning that improvements in time were few and far in-between.
With 20 minutes remaining, it was Hamilton followed by Rosberg, Alonso, Massa, Button, Bottas, Kvyat, Ricciardo, Magnussen and Hulkenberg for the Top 10. Raikkonen was way back in 16th following a misfire from his Ferrari Power Unit and Lotterer was just 0.1 second behind Ericsson, impressive for a debutant. Chilton, however, wasn't fairing so well, he was just under 3 seconds behind Chilton and a whopping 7.7 seconds off of Hamilton.
Drivers and teams were splitting their race simulation strategies, some were opting to run on the Soft compound of tyres, others on the Mediums. It became apparent that the faster options (softs) were relatively durable in the low temperatures of the Ardennes forest.
There was no change in the running order as the session ended, Hamilton remained fastest with Rosberg behind, demonstrating that the Mercedes team were still the force to be reckoned with after the summer break. Only two drivers failed to set times; Pastor Maldonado thanks to his crash on his first flying lap and Sebastian Vettel following the Red Bull's electrical gremlins.
Free Practice 3 will be live tomorrow at 10.00 BST (11.00 Local Time) and we will have news throughout the day as well as a report on the session.
Chief UK Editor