Championship rivals Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel traded places at the top of the time-sheets in what were very close and very interesting Friday practice sessions at Silverstone.
It was Mercedes’ Hamilton who laid down the marker in FP1 heading a Mercedes 1-2 nearly 4 tenths ahead of Valtteri Bottas. Vettel meanwhile was 3rd quickest and over half a second behind the lead Mercedes.
The other Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen was 5th and sandwiched between the Red Bull drivers of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen. The Ferrari driver spun at Brooklands and onto the grass in what was a difficult session for the Finn.
In the final few minutes, disaster struck once again for Verstappen as the Dutchman slowed and stopped on the pit-straight with apparent gearbox issues – something that happened to the Red Bull driver in FP3 in Austria.
As a precaution, Mercedes changed Bottas’ power unit for this weekend. This is because of a result of Bottas suffering high temperatures on his second power unit from heat soak following his retirement in Austria. The Finn was the first of the top drivers to sample the Soft compound tyre with the Finn setting a 1:28:143.
After scoring his first points of the year with 4th in Austria, Romain Grosjean had a much tougher time today as the Haas driver ended up in the barrier. The replay showed that as Grosjean approached Turn 1, he kept his DRS open as he turned into the corner causing the car to catch and slide.
After an important week for McLaren in which racing director Eric Boullier resigned amid a wider restructuring of the leadership at the team, McLaren were getting crucial aero data as Fernando Alonso spent most of FP1 in and out of the garage, eventually finishing in 15th with team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne in 17th.
Williams’ Sergey Sirotkin span into the gravel trap at the final corner. A snap of oversteer sent him off, despite the Russian catching the initial slide.
Quite a few of the drivers were very vocal in how bumpy the new track surface was. The track was resurfaced ahead of this weekend’s race.
Kevin Magnussen and Alonso were reported to the stewards after the session after Alonso accused the Dane of dangerous driving. Magnussen appeared to veer at Alonso’s car on the Wellington Straight towards Turn 6, Brooklands, after the two tripped over each other through the first corner, Abbey, as Alonso was on a slow lap and Magnussen a fast one.
Come FP2 there would be more misery for Verstappen. On his out-lap, he crashed his RB14 at Turn 8, ending the session. Red Bull’s sole focus on gathering data rested heavily on Ricciardo as the Australian finished 5th quickest.
Vettel would end the session quickest with Hamilton nearly 2 tenths behind in 2nd. Bottas and Raikkonen would finish 3rd and 4th with Ricciardo 5th.
Surprisingly, Alonso would finish 6th ahead of Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg, the Force India drivers of Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez with Sauber’s Charles Leclerc impressing once again to end FP2 in 10th.
The other Renault of Carlos Sainz Jr finished in 11th with Haas’s Kevin Magnussen in 12th. Grosjean did not take part in FP2 due to the amount of damage to his Haas car, with the team deciding to revert back to the chassis the Frenchman raced in Austria.
Pierre Gasly would be the lead Toro Rosso driver in 13th with the Sauber of Marcus Ericsson in 14th. Lance Stroll finished ahead of Williams team-mate Sergey Sirotkin in 15th and 16th with Vandoorne in 17th and the other Toro Rosso of Brendon Hartley in 18th.