FP2: Leclerc leads Ferrari 1-2 in Germany as Gasly crashes out
It’s a big weekend for Mercedes, the Silver Arrows running a special white livery to celebrate Mercedes-Benz’s 125th year of involvement in motorsport, but it was their rivals Ferrari that stole the show on Friday as Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel gave the Prancing Horse their second one-two of the day in second practice for the German Grand Prix.
The heatwave sweeping across Europe ensured Hockenheim was baking hot on Friday, the temperatures climbing to around 35C. Mercedes have brought an upgrade package to Germany, which included new bigger bodywork in a bid to help ease their problems with cooling in warm conditions.
But it wasn’t quite enough to top the timesheets as Ferrari set an impressive pace when attention turned to running the softest of the Pirelli tyres. First Vettel headed the times, then Leclerc – despite not going fastest in any of the three sectors and encountering traffic in the stadium section – usurped him by just over a tenth of a second.
Championship leader Lewis Hamilton went fastest in the final sector, but it wasn’t quite enough and he ended up third – very much in the hunt, 0.146s off the pace. It was less impressive from Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas, the Finn looking scrappy throughout and a mistake on his qualifying simulation left him half a second off Hamilton.
However, a word of caution. These sizzling conditions won’t be repeated for the rest of the weekend, with temperatures dropping into Saturday while Sunday is set to be around 10 degrees cooler. Add to that the prospect of rain across the next two days and it’s suddenly a whole different ballgame.
There were mixed fortunes for Red Bull, with Max Verstappen once again their quickest driver as he slotted into fifth, a fraction behind Bottas. His team mate Pierre Gasly struggled throughout, however, and put himself firmly on the backfoot when he crashed at the final corner – after the rear end got away from him – to bring out the red flag.
Haas have had a miserable time of it recently, having failed to score points in each of the last four races. With that in mind, they have opted to split their running, with Romain Grosjean running the Australia-spec and Kevin Magnussen the latest upgrade package. Intriguingly, it was Grosjean who was the stronger, the Frenchman sixth quickest with Magnussen down in 18th.
Racing Point also had a new upgrade package, their bodywork visibly different at Hockenheim, and the early signs were encouraging, with Lance Stroll seventh, eight-tenths off the pace with Sergio Perez 10th. They sandwiched Kimi Raikkonen and Nico Hulkenberg to complete the rundown of the top 10 drivers.
Carlos Sainz, who reported brake pedal failure in the closing stages – having gone very wide into Turn 6 – was 11th quickest, 1.2s off the pace and four-tenths quicker than McLaren team mate Lando Norris.
So the early signs are positive for Ferrari, but Mercedes will take heart from the performance of their new cooling package as well as relishing the fact the temperatures are set to drop as the weekend goes on…