In the highest temperatures seen so far in this F1 season, Lewis Hamilton narrowly beat Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg at the top of the timesheets in free practice for the German Grand Prix, the Silverstone-winner edging the championship leader by just two hundredths of a second.
Daniel Ricciardo was third, just a tenth adrift of Hamilton’s supersoft-shod best time of 1:18.341. The Red Bull Racing driver logged competitive times against the Mercedes driver on both tyre compounds and through his short and longer runs on a day when all the teams ran without FRIC systems.
“It was a little difficult to find a balance today with the track being so hot, it was quite tricky,” said Hamilton. “The car is a little bit different now, obviously because we and everyone has made changes set-up is in a different direction to what we’ve had in the past but it’s still fun to drive.
“Finding the sweet spot of the car is just in a different place now. We have to improve our target and get that right.”
Temperatures on the track soared to almost 60 degrees in the afternoon, while the air temperature was 32 degrees. Cooler weather is forecast for Sunday, which could make much of the data gathered today redundant. As things stand it will be close between a two and three stop strategy, with the super soft only good for around 8-10 laps at the start of the race.
Rosberg had run fastest in the morning session, beating Hamilton to top spot by just six hundredths of a second. It was a similar story in the afternoon on the supersoft tyres, but on the soft compound Rosberg was marginally faster, eclipsing Hamilton by three tenths of a second. Hamilton’s best time in the afternoon came on the supersoft as track temperatures soared to 58 degrees Celsius.
Rosberg made a mistake at Turn 2 on his qualifying simulation run and had to go again; with the supersoft tyres only good for one lap in the intense heat, he and already taken one sector of life out of his tyres.
The long runs in the second half of FP2 showed that Mercedes had the edge over Red Bull by a few tenths, with Williams ahead of Ferrari.
In the morning session Ricciardo had finished fourth behind Fernando Alondso and half a second off Rosberg, but the Australian closed the gap in the afternoon and looked competitive on both tyres.
Behind him Kimi Raikkonen finished fourth for Ferrari, improving on his eighth place in the morning. Team-mate Alonso, though, went backwards in the afternoon. In FP1 the Spaniard was just three tenths off the pace of Rosberg but in the second session his best lap saw him finish almost a full second adrift of Hamilton and down in ninth place.
In the morning McLaren had continued the good form shown in Silverstone by posting the fifth and seventh best times, with Jenson Button in P5 and Kevin Magnussen just under a tenth further back.
McLaren suffered from struggling to get the temperature of the tyres balanced from front to rear,
In FP2, the pair swapped places, with Magnussen continuing to make progress and claiming fifth place by the end of running. Button, though failed to find the looked for improvement on the supersoft and finished seventh, behind Williams Felipe Massa. His team-mate, Valtteri Bottas, took the final top 10 place.
It was a tough day for Caterham as both cars stopped on track in the afternoon. Kamui Kobayashi stopped after just 12 laps with flames pouring from the back of his car, while Marcus Ericsson stopped with an oil pressure problem after just three laps. The team managed to eventually get Ericsson going again in the final half hour of the session.
In the morning, Williams development driver Susie Wolff took Bottas’ seat for her second Friday practice outing for the Grove outfit.
At Silverstone, the Scot’s session lasted just lasted just four laps before a power unit problem sidelined her and early on at Hockenheim it seemed as if she was destined for more heartbreak as an issue on her installation lap forced her back to the pits.
The problem was rectified, however, and she was able to complete a total of 22 laps, with a best time of 1:20.76. That left her in P15, just 0.227s off the best time set by Massa.
German Grand Prix Free Practice 2 Times
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m18.341s 38
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m18.365s +0.024s 39
3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault 1m18.443s +0.102s 35
4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m18.887s +0.546s 38
5 Kevin Magnussen McLaren 1m18.960s +0.619s 40
6 Felipe Massa Williams 1m19.024s +0.683s 36
7 Jenson Button McLaren 1m19.221s +0.880s 40
8 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing 1m19.248s +0.907s 35
9 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m19.329s +0.988s 32
10 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1m19.385s +1.044s 34
11 Adrian Sutil Sauber 1m19.417s +1.076s 41
12 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1m19.452s +1.111s 27
13 Sergio Perez Force India 1m19.581s +1.240s 28
14 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1m19.593s +1.252s 32
15 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1m19.760s +1.419s 32
16 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1m20.158s +1.817s 35
17 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1m20.358s +2.017s 35
18 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1m20.504s +2.163s 40
19 Jules Bianchi Marussia 1m21.328s +2.987s 31
20 Marcus Ericsson Caterham 1m21.870s +3.529s 21
21 Max Chilton Marussia 1m21.898s +3.557s 28
22 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham 1m23.728s +5.387s 12