It was good and bad news for Valtteri Bottas on the first day of the Silverstone weekend. He finished fastest in both practice sessions as Mercedes dominated their rivals but then heard he’ll have a five-place grid penalty on Sunday due to a gearbox change. Just as happened to Lewis previously, that takes his car over the number of allowed changes so the best he can hope for on Sunday is to start sixth on the grid for the British Grand Prix. That could be good news for Hamilton who’s seeking his fourth straight win in this race.
Mercedes were fastest in the first practice session but it was Valtteri Bottas who finished first 0.078 seconds faster than Lewis Hamilton in second. It was a close affair though and the lead changed throughout the session.
It was Red Bull rather than Ferrari who were right behind Mercedes. Max Verstappen finished third 0.408 seconds behind Bottas with Daniel Ricciardo 0.338 seconds behind his team mate. The best finish for Ferrari was Kimi Raikkonen in fifth.
Championship leader Sebastian Vettel was down in sixth place 1.411 seconds off the pace. He had a few problems, notably when having a big spin at Becketts as well as going over the kerb at Village.
Those results will have delighted Mercedes considering their times were set on the soft tyre with Red Bull and Ferrari employing the super-softs. The fact Ferrari seemed to be having some grip problems will encourage them too.
More good news for McLaren with Fernando Alonso eight fastest and team mate Stoffel Vandoorne in10th. Trouble is there’s also some bad news because Alonso already has a five-place grid penalty or Sunday after using too many engine parts. It could get worse because more work is due to be carried out by Honda.
Bottas repeated his performance in the first practice session and in another Mercedes 1-2, he finished 0.047 seconds of Hamilton. It has to be noted though that Lewis set his best time on the slower soft tyres. He also had a few problems when using his super-soft tyres and losing control at the final right-hander in Becketts. That caused him to return to the pits to see if his Mercedes had suffered any damage. He wasn’t the only driver to have problems at Becketts with Raikkonen and Carlos Sainz also having problems there, so watch out for that over the weekend.
Ferrari filled third and fourth with Raikkonen 0.128 seconds ahead of Vettel. They were followed by the Red Bulls with Verstappen in fifth and Ricciardo sixth. Seventh went to Nico Hulkenburg with Felipe Massa eighth. Fernando Alonso was ninth fastest but with another new engine being fitted before qualifying, he’ll be starting at the back of the grid on Sunday.
With Bottas suffering that grid penalty, it’s all looking good for Hamilton to close the gap on Vettel this weekend. Race-simulation runs had Lewis about 0.2 seconds a lap faster than his team-mate and well ahead of the Ferrari’s. I’ll be back tomorrow with a report on qualifying, till then enjoy your racing.