CLICK: Full GP2 practice results from Spa-Francorchamps
Julian Leal topped the 45-minute practice at Spa-Francorchamps on Friday, the only man able to dip under the one minute 58 second mark during the session.
"It was a good session for us we used the time well to work on a few things and the times were there," said Leal afterwards. "I had a good gap out on track so was able to manage that with the help of the team and get the lap in.
"The car felt really good; the setup, the tyres – everything just worked well," he continued. "Now we need to keep pushing because that is what everyone else will be doing as we head into qualifying this afternoon but we're in good shape and it's nice to come back and be on top after the summer break."
Leal set his time of 1:57.877s midway through, displacing Trident's Johnny Cecotto Jr. from the top spot by 0.153s. At around the same time, Racing Engineering's Raffaele Marciello was able to improve his own time sufficiently to leap into fourth place ahead of Venezuela GP Lazarus' Nathanael Berthon.
The rest of the field were just gearing up to have a go at taking the honours from Leal when a prolonged red flag stoppage at just the wrong time left them unable to get in the flying laps they had been planning.
In what was otherwise a quiet and straightforward practice, Stefano Coletti had gone wide through turn 14 and lost the back-end, spinning through the gravel trap with ten minutes remaining in the session. The problem was compounded when the Racing Engineering #6 continued rolling backwards down the hill, finally coming to a stop in the middle of the track.
With the car stuck in gear, Coletti had no option except to climb out and wait for the track workers to arrive with a flatbed truck on which to crane the car. By the time this was accomplished there were only four minutes remaining which on the 4.352-mile, 20-turn circuit meant the drivers had barely enough time to get back out on track and complete their warm-ups in time to try new flying laps.
Few managed to improve, but an exception to the rule was Conor Daly who bolted on new tyres on the #25 and managed to surge from the bottom of the standings all the way to fifth place just behind his team mate Berthon, and ahead of ART's Stoffel Vandoorne and Trident's Sergio Canamasas. Despite his early finish, Coletti was classified in eighth place ahead of Stephane Richelmi (DAMS) and Mitch Evans (Russian Time).
Championship leader Jolyon Palmer (DAMS) and his closest challenger for the title Felipe Nasr (Carlin) resumed their battle by going first and second with their first flying laps, but thereafter neither man featured again in the session or were able to improve their times and as a result they both dropped outside the top ten by the finish.
Despite forecasts of showers and the presence of some brutal-looking black clouds near the circuit, the session managed to stay dry throughout although conditions were unusually chilly and the wind was picking up by the time the chequered flag came out. Other than Coletti's spin there were no other significant incidents.
Qualifying for this weekend's feature race will take place following the second F1 Free Practice session, at 3.55pm local time (2.55pm BST), with the 25-lap race itself scheduled for Saturday afternoon at 3.40pm (2.40pm BST). The 18-lap sprint race will get underway on Sunday morning at 10.35am (9.35am BST) and all sessions will be shown live in the UK on Sky Sports F1
See full GP2 practice results from Spa-Francorchamps