It all seemed to be going well for Mercedes at the Austrian Grand Prix. Hamilton was leading and, on the way, to building up a good lead at the top of the standings. However, it all went wrong with both Mercedes having to retire from the race. That left Sebastian Vettel a point clear of the defending champion and Ferrari 10 points clear in the constructors table. Now the Grand Prix circus heads to Silverstone and Hamilton/Mercedes are desperate for a much better weekend.
Drivers – Sebastian Vettel 146 Lewis Hamilton 145 Kimi Raikkonen 101
Constructors – Ferrari 247 Mercedes 237 Red Bull 189
It’s a big weekend for Lewis Hamilton as he not only bids to get his lead back but also to make history. A win at Silverstone will be his fifth successive win in the race and a record sixth. Just as in Austria, it was Mercedes who dominated the Friday practice sessions. Lewis Hamilton was fastest in first practice 0.367 seconds ahead of team-mate Valtteri Bottas whose car has a new engine for this race but won’t face any grid penalties but one more change will. Championship leader Sebastian Vettel was in third place 0.511 seconds behind Hamilton.
Daniel Ricciardo was fourth fastest with Kimi Raikkonen in fifth despite having a spin at Brooklands during the session. Austrian Grand Prix winner Max Verstappen was sixth and had a worrying end to his session. He stopped on the pit straight with a gearbox problem just three minutes before the session was due to end.
The practice session saw one major incident as Haas driver Romain Grosjean crashed on the first corner after he failed to close a DRS overtaking aid. Apparently, a bump on entry caused that error as he missed the button, but at least he apologised to his team. It was a bit like a sibling making that embarrassed apology after borrowing your car and wrecking it as Grosjean declared “the car is destroyed.” It’s another mistake by him though and it’s beginning to look doubtful he’ll be in the Haas team next year.
The other Haas had problems too with Kevin Magnusson being reported to the stewards accused of dangerous driving after an incident with Fernando Alonso on Wellington Straight towards Turn Six.
Hamilton is still adamant he won’t attend the post-qualifying press conference because he’ll be watching the England game. He may have finished fastest in this session but wasn’t totally happy with a bumpy track or his car. The latter is a bit of a worry considering what happened in Austria.
The apologetic Grosjean was seventh fastest – a time set of course before destroying his car – with the Force India’s of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon in eighth and ninth respectively. The Williams of Lance Stroll was a promising tenth.
After the restructuring of the management team at McLaren, Alonso finished 15th fastest and Vandoorne two places behind him.
Whereas Mercedes dominated the first practice session, it was a different story in the afternoon. Sebastian Vettel was fastest 0.187 seconds ahead of Lewis Hamilton. Bottas was in third and Raikkonen fourth fastest.
That result didn’t tell the whole story as Hamilton was more than 0.5 seconds quicker than Raikkonen in race-simulation runs on the soft tyre. There’s no comparison with Vettel as he stayed on the medium tyre.
Daniel Ricciardo was fifth fastest, but the big surprise was Fernando Alonso in sixth though his McLaren was 0.898 seconds adrift of Ricciardo and only 0.525 seconds ahead of 13th place. In seventh was Nico Hulkenberg followed by the Force India’s of Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez with Charles Leclerc 10th.
It’s been a little while since there’s been a Max Verstappen crash to report but here we go again. This time he lost control at the Luffield hairpin, tried to sort his car out but over-corrected and spun into the wall causing damage to the right rear corner of the car. Romain Grosjean didn’t get the chance to make amends for what happened in the first practice session as his car wasn’t ready to get back on the track.
So, we had a day that showed the pace of Mercedes but also the threat of Ferrari. It’ll be interesting to see if we can have a third straight Mercedes 1-2 in qualifying tomorrow. I’ll be back with a report on how that gets on tomorrow, probably started before the big game begins and finished off at half-time. Till then, enjoy your racing.
By Steve Ashfield for Pillow Motor Sport