Lewis Hamilton draws first blood
Hockenheim: Lewis Hamilton edged out Formula One championship leader Nico Rosberg to lead a Mercedes one-two at the end of the first day of practice for this weekend’s German Grand Prix.
Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton (inset) drives in the first practice session ahead of the German Grand Prix at the Hockenheimring yesterday. Pic/AFP.
Hamilton, gunning for his sixth win of the season, set a time of one minute 18.341 seconds, just two-hundreths of a second quicker than home hero Rosberg’s best on a hot and sunny day at the Hockenheim circuit. Rosberg, who holds a slim four-point lead over Hamilton in the title standings, had led the Briton by a similarly narrow margin in the morning session.
Behind the two Mercedes, Daniel Ricciardo in the Red Bull appeared to be in hot pursuit. The Australian, who had been fourth fastest in the morning session, ended the day third quickest, just a tenth off Hamilton’s benchmark.
Though practice times are notoriously difficult to read, Ricciardo’s performance indicated that Red Bull had once again picked up the baton of the best-of-the-rest team behind the dominant Silver Arrows after having handed it to Williams over the last few races.
The 24-year-old, who claimed the reigning world champion team’s first win of the season in Canada, once again led the Red Bull charge and was quicker than local favourite Sebastian Vettel in both sessions, with the German ending the day eighth.
Kimi Raikkonen bounced back from a water pump issue that had hindered his running in the morning session to end the day fourth quickest in his Ferrari ahead of McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen and Williams driver Felipe Massa. Jenson Button was seventh in the McLaren while Fernando Alonso and Valtteri Bottas, fresh from two straight podium finishes, rounded out the top ten.
The Finn had sat out the morning session with Williams once again opting to slot Susie Wolff into the car. The Scot, married to Mercedes motorsport boss Toto, enjoyed a much more productive outing compared to a fortnight ago in Silverstone, when she was sidelined with an engine problem after just four laps.
However, Wolf -- who at Silverstone became the first woman in 22 years to participate in a Grand Prix weekend -- did suffer an early scare as she lost drive only a few corners into her outlap. But the problem, a sensor issue, was quickly fixed and the 31-year-old was back out on track fairly soon. She ended the session fifteenth fastest but completed 22 laps of running and set a time just two-tenths of a second slower than Massa’s.
With air temperatures in their thirties and track temperatures climbing well into their fifties, it was a hard day’s running for the cars.
Kamui Kobayashi’s Caterham caught fire, with flames issuing from the rear of the car, leaving the Japanese driver to hotfoot it out of the cockpit before returning with a fire extinguisher to help marshals douse the flames. Aside from Kobayashi’s fiery demise there were no other notable incidents during what was a fairly clean session.
Several drivers, including Hamilton and Rosberg, locked up and ran wide as they tested the circuit’s limits on their first visit to Hockenheim since 2012 and got to grips with the handling of their cars now stripped of clever suspension systems.The system, which stabilizes a car through corners, was deemed to be illegal by the sport’s governing FIA in the run up to the race.
The regulator had left the door open to delaying a ban on the systems to next season provided all teams unanimously agreed to the proposal. But with some smaller teams threatening to protest competitors running the systems in Hockenheim, all outfits decided to run their cars without it. Not running the systems, however, had no obvious impact on the pecking order.