FP1: Vettel heads Ferrari 1-2 at Hockenheim
The running for the 2019 German Grand Prix weekend got underway beneath a fierce heat on Friday – and the early indications are that it will be game on between Ferrari and Mercedes, with Sebastian Vettel finishing the session in P1, ahead of Charles Leclerc and Lewis Hamilton in P3.
With the air temperature topping 35 degrees during the session, Vettel lapped his home track of Hockenheim in 1m 14.013s. That was 0.255s quicker than Leclerc and over three-tenths faster than rival and championship leader Lewis Hamilton could manage, although Hamilton – running in a special white livery to celebrate Mercedes-Benz’s 125th year of involvement in motorsport – set his fastest lap on medium tyres.
Max Verstappen was P4 for Red Bull, the team appearing to lack a smidge of pace compared to their other top three rivals in the early part of running, as he finished 0.317s off Vettel’s time on the soft rubber.
Valtteri Bottas was P5 in the second white Mercedes, but a low-speed moment at the end of the session saw the Finn almost perfectly replicate Vettel’s crash from 12 months ago that saw him miss out on his first ever win at Hockenheim. The Finn was able to continue on his way, however, escaping the gravel to end up 0.647s off the German’s time, while Pierre Gasly was sixth in the second Red Bull, 0.8s adrift, and just two-tenths faster than McLaren’s Carlos Sainz, who headed the midfield in P7.
Haas are aiming for a productive Friday, with the team set to run three different aerodynamic specs across the two cars as they seek to get to the bottom of the VF-19’s issues. But after 20 minutes of FP1, Kevin Magnussen pulled up in the stadium section with a sensor issue.
After getting a tow back to the pits as the session was red flagged, Magnussen was able to return to the track, ending up P13. Perhaps disappointingly for Haas, though, Grosjean was able to lap over seven-tenths faster than his team mate as he ended up a promising eighth – despite running the Melbourne spec the team used at the first race of the year…
Lance Stroll used Racing Point’s new upgrades to end up a promising P9, just over a tenth off Grosjean, while Daniel Ricciardo survived a lairy spin going through the first corner to finish P10 for Renault – although the Australian was over half a second off Sainz’s time in the similarly-powered McLaren.
It was a tougher session for Toro Rosso and Alfa Romeo, meanwhile, Daniil Kvyat the former’s best runner in P14, one-thousandth ahead of team mate Alex Albon, while the Alfas lined up in P17 and P18, Kimi Raikkonen ahead of Antonio Giovinazzi, but nearly two seconds off the pace.
Williams brought up the rear of the field, although there was some cause for celebration for the Grove team, with Robert Kubica using the team’s newest upgrade – comprising a new floor and changes to the bargeboard area – to finish over half a second clear of George Russell and around two-tenths off Giovinazzi in P18, indicating that the new parts were working well.
So Sebastian Vettel will be the man smiling going into the Friday lunch break at Hockenheim. But with the weather set to change dramatically over the course of the weekend, with rain and even thunder forecast, there’s plenty more ups and downs set to come over the next few days.