Scuderia Ferrari got its German Formula 1 Grand Prix weekend off to a positive start by claiming a 1-2 result in the opening practice session at the Hockenheimring, with Sebastian Vettel leading teammate Charles Leclerc.
Vettel delighted a rather sparse local crowd at what is likely to be the German’s last race on home soil ahead of its expected removal from next year’s calendar. The four-time World Champion put in a late flying lap of 1:14.013, beating Leclerc’s previous best time by over a quarter of a second.
Three-tenths adrift was current championship leader Lewis Hamilton who, along with Mercedes-AMG teammate Valtteri Bottas, is sporting a one-off livery celebrating the carmaker’s 200th Grand Prix and 125th year of motorsport competition. Hamilton’s quickest lap came on the Pirelli Medium compound tyres, placing him third-fastest, while Bottas was fifth-quickest and a further three-tenths of a second slower.
The Finn’s session featured a trip through the same gravel trap that famously deprived Vettel of victory at last year’s race, although he was able to keep his car out of the barriers and live to fight another day.
With ambient temperatures already peaking at over 35ºC before lunchtime ahead of an expected scorching maximum of 39ºC, the baking conditions were already placing a strain on tyre life. In a bid to protect their rubber, many drivers typically opted for one ‘push’ lap separated by at least one very slow lap to bring down their tyre temperatures. With the Hockenheimring’s relatively short lap, navigating through the slower traffic called for extra skill and there were a number of near-misses during the 90-minute session.
Splitting the Mercedes duo was Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen, whose best lap was 0.317 seconds off Vettel’s benchmark effort. The Dutchman’s teammate Pierre Gasly claimed P6, although almost half a second slower than the Austrian Grand Prix winner.
Leading a tight midfield was McLaren’s Carlos Sainz Jr, who lapped just over a second off Vettel’s pace in seventh, with the Spaniard followed by the Haas Ferrari of Romain Grosjean.
The Frenchman and his American team were enjoying something of a return to form on the basis of their FP1 pace. Aside from being embroiled in an ugly dispute with their title sponsor, the team has struggled to identify the root cause of the VF-19’s performance problems and will run three different aerodynamic configurations in a bid to rediscover the car’s sweet spot.
Rather embarrassingly for the team, Grosjean’s best time of the session came while running the same aerodynamic specification that it did at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, which would indicate the team took a wrong turn early in the season with its cars’ development.
Their cause was not helped with Grosjean’s teammate Kevin Magnussen being forced to stop in the stadium section with an apparent sensor issue. The session was briefly red-flagged to allow Magnussen to limp back to the pits in safety, and while he was able to return to the track the Dane finished P13.
New aerodynamic upgrades propelled the Racing Point of Lance Stroll ninth-fastest, in what the Canadian teenager’s most promising start to a Grand Prix this season. His teammate Sergio Pérez was four-tenths of a second slower and finished P11. The pair sandwiched Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo, whose session was punctuated by a wild spin at Turn 1.
Scuderia Toro Rosso and Alfa Romeo found themselves at the bottom end of the midfield grouping. The former’s drivers Daniil Kvyat and Alexander Albon were split by just one-thousandth of a second in P14 and P15 respectively. Alfa Romeo teammates Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovinazzi were P17 and P18; the two teams sandwiched the second Renault of Nico Hülkenberg.
Williams once again brought up the rear, although this time it was Robert Kubica who led the Grove team’s charge for respectability. The Polish veteran was running a number of upgrades – including a new floor and bargeboard tweaks – which helped him outpace teammate George Russell to the tune of over half a second.
|FORMULA 1 MERCEDES-BENZ GROSSER PREIS VON DEUTSCHLAND 2019 – FREE PRACTICE SESSION 1|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Time||Gap||Laps|
|1.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF90||1:14.013||21|
|2.||Charles Leclerc||Scuderia Ferrari SF90||1:14.268||+ 0.255||25|
|3.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes-AMG Motorsport W10||1:14.315||+ 0.302||32|
|4.||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing RB15||1:14.330||+ 0.317||28|
|5.||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes-AMG Motorsport W10||1:14.660||+ 0.647||28|
|6.||Pierre Gasly||Red Bull Racing RB15||1:14.813||+ 0.800||23|
|7.||Carlos Sainz Jr.||McLaren F1 Team MCL34||1:15.062||+ 1.049||30|
|8.||Romain Grosjean||Haas F1 Team VF-19||1:15.074||+ 1.061||30|
|9.||Lance Stroll||Racing Point F1 Team RP19||1:15.191||+ 1.178||26|
|10.||Daniel Ricciardo||Renault F1 Team RS19||1:15.567||+ 1.554||23|
|11.||Sergio Pérez||Racing Point F1 Team RP19||1:15.604||+ 1.591||24|
|12.||Lando Norris||McLaren F1 Team MCL34||1:15.616||+ 1.603||26|
|13.||Kevin Magnussen||Haas F1 Team VF-19||1:15.759||+ 1.746||27|
|14.||Daniil Kvyat||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda STR14||1:15.776||+ 1.763||30|
|15.||Alexander Albon||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda STR14||1:15.777||+ 1.764||24|
|16.||Nico Hülkenberg||Renault F1 Team RS19||1:15.823||+ 1.810||23|
|17.||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo Racing C38||1:15.953||+ 1.940||26|
|18.||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Racing C38||1:16.382||+ 2.369||31|
|19.||Robert Kubica||ROKiT Williams Racing FW42||1:16.559||+ 2.546||27|
|20.||George Russell||ROKiT Williams Racing FW42||1:17.176||+ 3.113||23|
Image via Red Bull Content Pool