Friday practice gave a somewhat unclear picture at the Hockenheimring.
Red Bull set the quickest times in both sessions. But if Lewis Hamilton had managed to string his three best sector times together, his theoretical best lap of 1’12.887 would have put him ahead by almost two-tenths.
Hamilton, however, was concerned by the “sandbagging” Ferraris, which he believes have got a significant power boost from their engines. It’s true Ferrari have tended to gain more lap time on Saturdays than their rivals, and that Sebastian Vettel was fastest through sector two, which top speed is crucial.
As we’ve seen already this year, just because Red Bull top both sessions on Friday, it doesn’t mean they’re going to be in the hunt for pole position. Their rivals’ potent qualifying modes – and, in this case, Daniel Ricciardo’s grid penalty – will see to that. However even if it stays dry another nail-bitingly close Mercedes-versus-Ferrari pole position shoot-out of the kind we enjoyed at Silverstone is in the offing.
However the forecast of rain for qualifying will be great news for Max Verstappen, as it promises to neuter his rivals’ straight-line speed advantage and put him in the hunt for pole position too. But it won’t help Ricciardo, who will start at the back of the grid irrespective of whether he sets a time in qualifying.
Conditions will change again on race day. The threat of rain on Sunday is receding, but temperatures are expected to be significantly cooler. This will drastically change the tyre situation.
On Friday left-rear blistering was a problem for all the teams. Renault suffered worse, and Haas’s Romain Grosjean suggested Pirelli should have brought the thinner tyres which were used at Silverstone. But an expected 8C drop in track temperatures will make graining of the front-left tyre, particularly on the ultra-soft compound, a bigger problem.
“That’s why this afternoon they were trying to simulate different pace to understand which is the level they can run,” explained Pirelli’s Mario Isola.
“The target to have one stop, because they lose too much if they stop twice. And there is no real incentive because the degradation becomes high when you finish the tyre but the first part of the stint the degradation is very low. You have low [degradation] and then you have what we can call ‘the cliff’, at that point you have to change.”
Although the ultra-soft tyre Pirelli has brought this weekend is two ‘stages’ softer than the next tyre, the soft, it is only around 0.6 seconds quicker. This will give the front-running teams the opportunity to go through Q2 on the soft tyre (assuming the track is dry) and start the race on it. But even those who are forced to use the ultra-soft in Q2 should still be able to avoid a two=stop straight.
“If with the ultra-soft you run more than 15 laps then you can fit the medium and try to go to the end of the race,” said Isola. “That is 50 laps but with the medium it is feasible.”
Behind the front-running teams Haas have another opportunity to score a one-two in ‘Formula 1 B’, though they’ve converted few of those chances this year. Two top 10 appearances for Charles Leclerc indicates he is a contender for Q3 again, though Marcus Ericsson in the other Sauber still isn’t able to extract as much from the softer compounds as his team mate.
The strength of the Ferrari customer teams serves to underline how they have overtaken Mercedes in power unit development. This seems to have tipped the balance in the closely-fought midfield battle.
Longest stint comparison – second practice
This chart shows all the drivers’ lap times (in seconds) during their longest unbroken stint. Very slow laps omitted. Scroll to zoom, drag to pan, right-click to reset:
Complete practice times
|1||Max Verstappen||Red Bull-TAG Heuer||1’13.714||1’13.085||52|
|6||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull-TAG Heuer||1’13.525||1’14.682||58|
|11||Esteban Ocon||Force India-Mercedes||1’14.508||39|
|12||Sergio Perez||Force India-Mercedes||1’15.415||1’14.552||67|
|13||Carlos Sainz Jnr||Renault||1’15.769||1’14.592||53|
|15||Pierre Gasly||Toro Rosso-Honda||1’16.071||1’14.793||76|
|16||Brendon Hartley||Toro Rosso-Honda||1’15.864||1’14.830||81|
|21||Nicholas Latifi||Force India-Mercedes||1’16.023||27|
Quotes: Dieter Rencken
2018 German Grand Prix
- Vettel quickest, then spins, as Ericsson escapes huge crash
- Hamilton says the quality of his German GP drive was “missed” by TV coverage
- Sainz wants simpler Safety Car rules after penalty
- Stewards right not to give Hamilton “harsh” penalty – Ricciardo
- Alonso backs McLaren over tyre gamble he disagreed with
One comment on “Saturday rain could bring one Red Bull into contention”
21st July 2018, 4:51
Looking forward to seeind Dan drive from the back with diff strat and a safety or 2 and he will be in the mix
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