In the finest example of how race weekend fortunes can be about extremes, Red Bull could potentially have a car lined up at either end of the grid for Sunday’s German GP.
Max Verstappen underlined well-handling Red Bull’s competitiveness by topping free practice ahead of the two Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, whilst team-mate Daniel Ricciardo will start the race from the back of the grid after power unit penalties.
The Australian’s side of the garage have had to take a new MGU-K, control electronics and energy store, which totals up to a 20-place grid drop, which automatically puts him at the back of the grid.
The tactics from Red Bull indicate that they believe they have a very strong chance of winning at the Hungarian Grand Prix – a race which follows the German Grand Prix – so have decided to prevent any possible setback at the Hungaroring by taking penalties now.
“You can overtake so if we do have the penalties and start towards the back, I’ll stay positive and know that there will be some good overtaking,” said Ricciardo, who finished the session down in thirteenth after concentrating on race simulations.
“Ideally we win next weekend [in Hungary] and suck it up here.”
Verstappen’s lap time of 1:13.085 is a new track record at the Hockenheimring and the top five were separated by just 0.342 of a second, but Verstappen’s session wasn’t completely without incident.
The Dutchman radioed to his team with around half-an-hour to go to complain of a problem downshifting through the gears. He was promptly brought back into the pits, but rejoined with a couple of minutes to go, raising hopes that he will remain without any kind of penalty this weekend.
Local favourite Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari finished the session in fourth with team-mate Kimi Raikkonen just over one tenth behind in fifth place.
Whilst Ferrari have had a habit of not showing their full hand during Friday practice, their long run pace was impressive. Their average lap times in the low 1:18’s trumped the times demonstrated by both Mercedes and Red Bull, who appeared to be in the mid-1:18’s.
Haas look set to carry on their recent form of being the ‘best of the rest’, with Romain Grosjean being the only midfielder to get within one second of Verstappen’s benchmark. Team-mate Kein Magnussen followed him up in seventh.
Sauber’s Charles Leclerc was eighth fastest for Sauber, ahead of Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and Force India’s Esteban Ocon.
The battle for midfield supremacy has triggered both Force India and Renault to bring new front wings to the Hockenheimring, although on face value it doesn’t yet look to be enough to reel in the Haas cars.
F1 brings in 18″ wheel rims for 2021, bans tyre blankets
With Formula One opening up the tender process for supplying tyres from 2020-2023, it has been revealed that this contract will include a switch to bigger wheel rims in 2021, an idea which has been around for a couple of years – an even trialled during in-season testing in previous years.
The winning bidder will keep the tyres specifications as they are for one season, before switching to different tyre specifications for 2021.
The front tyres are set to be narrower, dropping by 35mm to 270mm. The rears will stay the same, at 405mm, while diameters will increase from the current 670m to “700-720mm.”
The requirement for any new supplier to create brand new tyres to the existing specification, only to change specification one year later, would likely put off any new bidders.
An idea which has been floating around for some time is to be put into action; tyre blankets will be banned from Formula One.
This means that the tyre supplier will need to factor this in when creating the new compounds from 2020.
“Tyres should provide safe performance when leaving the pits cold,” said the official FIA tender document.
“The glass transition temperature must be chosen so that the tyres are never in a ‘glassy state’ when either the ambient or the track temperature is above 10 degrees centigrade.”
The FIA has added that there will be a need for a tyre capable of running in winter testing, and has also set a requirement for intermediate and wet tyres to be usable without pre-heating.
The FIA added: “The provider should commit to achieving this in 75 percent of circuits in 2020, and to improve their performance with respect to this objective throughout the whole period of the tyre supply.”
There will also be three compounds at each race, as expected, with the simplified hard, medium and soft names. The FIA characterises the tyres as follows:
– Hard compound: 2s degradation achieved at 22% race distance Base lap time
– Medium compound: 2s degradation achieved at 18% race distance 1.2s/lap quicker than Hard compound
– Soft compound: 2s degradation achieved at 10% race distance 2.2s/lap quicker than Hard compound
The FIA has also set the types of strategy it would like to see during a race. For a typical circuit it wants the following:
– 1x Medium Compound + 1x Hard Compound = 1-Stop Race
– 1x Soft Compound + 2x Medium Compound = 2-Stop Race
– 3x Soft Compound + 1x Medium Compound = 3-Stop Race
There are also requirements for the future tyres to not need to be run to excessive wear, but still have a ‘cliff’ in performance, which they suggest they achieve by having different performing layers within a tyre.
The FIA also prefer the tyre to be able to “recover” once a car is out of dirty air, and not continue to suffer from high degradation once the car is clean air.
GERMAN GRAND PRIX, Free Practice
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Renault 1:13.085s – 18 Laps
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m13.111s 0.026s 39
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m13.190s 0.105s 39
4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m13.310s 0.225s 46
5 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m13.427s 0.342s 41
6 Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari 1m13.978s 0.888s 34
7 Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari 1m14.189s 1.104s 36
8 Charles Leclerc Sauber/Ferrari 1m14.374s 1.289s 41
9 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1m14.496s 1.411s 31
10 Esteban Ocon Force India/Mercedes 1m14.508s 1.423s 39
11 Sergio Perez Force India/Mercedes 1m14.552s 1.467s 38
12 Carlos Sainz Renault 1m14.592s 1.507s 43
13 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/Renault 1m14.682s 1.597s 36
14 Marcus Ericsson Sauber/Ferrari 1m14.783s 1.698s 38
15 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso/Honda 1m14.793s 1.708s 44
16 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso/Honda 1m14.830s 1.745s 45
17 Fernando Alonso McLaren/Renault 1m14.836s 1.751s 38
18 Lance Stroll Williams/Mercedes 1m15.269s 2.184s 36
19 Sergey Sirotkin Williams/Mercedes 1m15.408s 2.323s 41
20 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren/Renault 1m15.454s 2.369s 34
By: Luke Murphy
All images: Motorsport Images
Who do you think is looking good at Hockenheim so far? What do you think of the new tyre rules? Leave your comments in the section below.