A wet and miserable Hockenheim circuit on Friday morning produced a surprising amount of on track running during the first session as teams clambered to pick up as much data as possible during the sodden opening practice. The rain had actually arrived during the week as even the medical and safety cars had offs in the wet as they examined the perimeter of the track on Thursday evening.
It should have been a morning of evaluation for the top teams, as McLaren once again brought their new blown diffuser and Mercedes had a new rear wing design to test, yet in the wet both squad struggled with poor rear balance. Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher proved to be the main victims, with Schumacher trundling around with no grip and slow times and Hamilton crashing at the long turn three kink, eliminating much of the McLaren’s outer extremities in the process. On the other hand, Red Bull reverted back to their old front wing for practice – somewhat ironic considering the PR disaster at Silverstone concerning the updated front element.
Further down the timesheet, Sakon Yamamoto replaces Karun Chandhok at Hispania for the weekend, while Fairuz Fauzy gets another go at Heikki Kovalainen’s Lotus for the first practice.
The track dried slowly throughout the session as the rain drifted away, with most of the field reverting to intermediate tyres as opposed to the overheating full wets as the minutes ticked; although Jaime Alguersuari proved to be the only brave soul to try a slick tyre run at the tail end of the session, but only succeeded in spinning repeatedly on the wet surface.
Sutil was fastest at the session end in his Force India, while Timo Glock managed the wet conditions well enough to clock a surprise 12th spot for the Virgin team, with Jarno Trulli in 15th in the second Lotus. It was an odd start to the weekend for Ferrari – Fernando Alonso showed that the car has definite speed, but Felipe Massa was unable to get any heat into the tyres on the damp track, only notching up his best time in the dry as practice ended.
Unlike the morning practice, the rain stayed away for the afternoon, leaving a relatively dry circuit for the second session. However with the track still relatively wet off line, it was unsurprising that some were caught out – including spectacular tank-slapping moments from both Kamui Kobayashi and Vitaly Petrov in their Sauber and Renault machines, although both escaped with no damage, bar some wounded pride.
In the Mercedes camp, Nico Rosberg garnered some damage across his front wing as he swiped one of the plastic bollards in turn one – an incident that would leave him garage bound for a significant chunk of the session. It would not stop the German picking up 5th in the session, just ahead of his illustrious team mate, Schumacher recovering slightly following a dire time in the morning.
Sadly for Lewis Hamilton, his Mercedes powered McLaren was still being rebuilt as the afternoon session began and the former World Champion would eventually only get to run in the final ten minutes, although he still pulled a 7th best time in his short run.
Alonso topped the session in his Ferrari, confirming a renewed confidence within the Italian squad – in fact the red cars were much faster than the field in the final sector, something that gave the Spaniard a huge advantage over his rivals. His team mate clocked the 3rd fastest time, the Brazilian was sandwiched by both Red Bull’s headed by Sebastian Vettel. The session ended, however, with Trulli’s Lotus parked ominously by the side of the road, as a fuel pump failure ended the Italian’s run.
German, 2nd Free Practice (July 23rd)
1 ALONSO Ferrari 1m16.265s
2 VETTEL Red Bull 1m16.294s
3 MASSA Ferrari 1m16.438s
4 WEBBER Red Bull 1m16.585s
5 ROSBERG Mercedes 1m16.827s
6 SCHUMACHER Mercedes 1m16.971s
7 HAMILTON McLaren 1m17.004s
8 KUBICA Renault 1m17.009s
9 BARRICHELLO Williams 1m17.056s
10 HULKENBERG Williams 1m17.204s
11 KOBAYASHI Sauber 1m17.336s
12 PETROV Renault 1m17.547s
13 DE LA ROSA Sauber 1m17.573s
14 SUTIL Force India 1m17.701s
15 BUTTON McLaren 1m17.739s
16 LIUZZI Force India 1m17.871s
17 BUEMI Toro Rosso 1m18.147s
18 ALGUERSUARI Toro Rosso 1m19.327s
19 GLOCK Virgin 1m19.553s
20 TRULLI Lotus 1m20.008s
21 DI GRASSI Virgin 1m20.106s
22 KOVALAINEN Lotus 1m20.377s
23 SENNA HRT 1m21.988s
24 YAMAMOTO HRT 1m23.066s
German, 1st Free Practice (July 23rd)
1 SUTIL Force India 1m25.701s
2 MASSA Ferrari 1m26.850s
3 BUTTON McLaren 1m26.936s
4 BARRICHELLO Williams 1m26.947s
5 PETROV Renault 1m26.948s
6 ROSBERG Mercedes 1m27.448s
7 BUEMI Toro Rosso 1m28.114s
8 HULKENBERG Williams 1m28.193s
9 LIUZZI Force India 1m28.300s
10 DE LA ROSA Sauber 1m28.486s
11 VETTEL Red Bull 1m28.735s
12 GLOCK Virgin 1m28.735s
13 KUBICA Renault 1m28.903s
14 WEBBER Red Bull 1m29.048s
15 TRULLI Lotus 1m29.280s
16 ALGUERSUARI Toro Rosso 1m29.366s
17 HAMILTON McLaren 1m29.429s
18 DI GRASSI Virgin 1m29.500s
19 ALONSO Ferrari 1m29.684s
20 KOBAYASHI Sauber 1m29.690s
21 FAUZY Lotus 1m30.938s
22 SENNA HRT 1m31.720s
23 SCHUMACHER Mercedes 1m32.450s
24 YAMAMOTO HRT 1m32.791s