Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Hockenheimring, 2018

Saturday rain could bring one Red Bull into contention

2018 German Grand Prix Friday practice analysis

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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

Pos Driver Car FP1 FP2 Total laps
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull-TAG Heuer 1’13.714 1’13.085 52
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1’13.529 1’13.111 68
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1’13.903 1’13.190 69
4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1’13.796 1’13.310 69
5 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1’14.267 1’13.427 65
6 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-TAG Heuer 1’13.525 1’14.682 58
7 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 1’14.691 1’13.973 63
8 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1’14.853 1’14.189 64
9 Charles Leclerc Sauber-Ferrari 1’15.097 1’14.374 66
10 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1’15.282 1’14.496 63
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
14 Marcus Ericsson Sauber-Ferrari 1’14.783 38
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
17 Fernando Alonso McLaren-Renault 1’15.544 1’14.836 51
18 Lance Stroll Williams-Mercedes 1’15.629 1’15.269 68
19 Sergey Sirotkin Williams-Mercedes 1’15.876 1’15.408 75
20 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren-Renault 1’16.149 1’15.454 48
21 Nicholas Latifi Force India-Mercedes 1’16.023 27
22 Antonio Giovinazzi Sauber-Ferrari 1’16.136 23

Quotes: Dieter Rencken

2018 German Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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One comment on “Saturday rain could bring one Red Bull into contention”

  1. 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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