Scuderia Ferrari was the driving force in today’s two free practice sessions for the 2019 German Grand Prix, with both its drivers topping the timesheets.
In torrid heat, Charles Leclerc was quickest overall, doing a 1.13.449 in the second session. Next up was his teammate Sebastian Vettel (1.13.573,) while the only other driver to get under the 1.14 barrier was Lewis Hamilton, third in FP2 with a 1.13.595.
“It was a positive day overall. The feeling in the car was good and we performed well during the high-fuel runs, which was one of our main challenges at the beginning of the season. High temperatures, such as those we saw today, suit our car well. It seems that there may be a change in the weather conditions tomorrow and on Sunday, which we will adapt to. Over the past few weekends, our competitors only revealed their full potential in qualifying. We must keep our heads down and continue working on optimizing our performance on this track. I look forward to being back in the car tomorrow and will give my best to put it on the front row,” said Leclerc.
These three drivers were also at the top of the FP1 timesheet, this time in the order Vettel (1.14.013) ahead of Leclerc (1.14.269), with Hamilton again third (1.14.315).
“I am happy with how today went. It took me a short while before finding the rhythm. We lost a bit of time in the first session when running the Mediums because of a red flag. I don’t know what programme our rivals were on, and how much they had to turn down the engine mapping because of the heat. It would be nice to have this weather on Sunday. Overall, it was a positive day, mainly because we have understood how to manage the car in these conditions. We got through all our programme aimed at having the car in the best possible set up and we have to continue down this route tomorrow, when track conditions and the weather could be very different,” added Vettel.
There was a big gap to the rest of the field in the usually more meaningful second session. Fourth fastest was Valtteri Bottas, who did a 1.14.111, followed by Max Verstappen (1.14.133), Romain Grosjean (1.14.179), Lance Stroll (1.14.268), Kimi Raikkonen (1.14.458), Nico Hulkenberg (1.14.472) with Sergio Perez (1.14.518) rounding off the top ten. Of the rest, Pierre Gasly was 15th in 1.15.089, but he crashed at the exit of the final corner towards the end of the session, badly damaging his Red Bull and the session had to be stopped while the car was recovered.
“It was quite a tricky day today. We managed to get some decent laps during FP1 and the feeling with the car was good. We completed the normal tests and then in FP2, we had a couple of issues which meant we didn’t get a short run on soft tyres and that put us back in the classifications, but the feeling was still good. Unfortunately, towards the end of the session I lost the car exiting the final corner during a long run and hit the barrier. Fortunately I wasn’t using my race engine or gearbox, but more importantly I’m really sorry for the boys in the garage and I want to apologise to them as the repairs will make for a long night. Looking ahead to tomorrow, the conditions are going to be completely different so we need to learn from today and analyse all the tests we have done,” said Gasly.
The very hot conditions complicated the usual Friday tasks for the teams, both in terms of setting up the cars in qualifying mode and for the long runs. It also makes it more difficult to draw conclusions regarding the pecking order among the teams.
Obviously the Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport team, celebrating 125 years in motorsport for the three-pointed star firm, with a special livery, is the odds-on favourite, especially from what one could see on the long runs, as well as from the following graphics.
Ferrari would love to ruin its rival’s celebrations and, especially on the Soft tyres, would seem capable of doing so, but any prediction has to be made bearing in mind the unknown factor relating to the weather. In fact, this part of Germany, as indeed most of Western Europe is due to see a sudden drop in temperature and more significantly, the arrival of rain. We have yet to witness a wet qualifying this year, nor indeed a race run in the rain. Would that shake up the established order or simply reconfirm Mercedes’ superiority? In just under 24 hours, we will have the answer.