Silverstone: Championship leader Sebastian Vettel topped the times for Ferrari in yesterday’s crash-hit second free practice for this weekend’s British Grand Prix, outpacing Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes by nearly two-tenths of a second.
On a hot afternoon in central England, the four-time champion German clocked a best lap in one minute and 27.552 seconds to ease 0.187 seconds clear of the Briton, who is seeking a record sixth victory in his home event and fifth in succession.
The session was red-flagged to a halt for 10 minutes when Max Verstappen crashed at Luffield, spinning his Red Bull backwards into the barriers. He was unhurt, but took no further part in the session.
Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas was third quickest, ahead of Kimi Raikkonen in the second Ferrari, Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull and, unexpectedly, Fernando Alonso of McLaren.
Hamilton had clocked the fastest time in opening practice earlier in the day when he outpaced Bottas.
Nico Hulkenberg was seventh for Renault ahead of Esteban Ocon and his Force India team-mate Sergio Perez with Monegasque Charles Leclerc taking 10th for Sauber.
The air temperature at the former war aerodrome was 26 degrees Celsius and the track 51 when the session began without Romain Grosjean, whose Haas car had not been repaired in time following his crash in the morning.
Raikkonen was quickest early on before Verstappen, who won so impressively last weekend in Austria, crashed heavily after two laps on hard tyres, the rear end of his Red Bull car snapping back 180 degrees.
His car’s rear suspension was broken and he took no further part in the session.
“I think I wanted to be too quick on the hard tyre,” said Verstappen. “I just lost it. Unfortunately, the way I hit the wall, it rips off the right rear.
“At the end of the day it is not ideal to lose the second session, but the feeling I had before that was pretty good.
“So I think, balance-wise, we are not far off, but we are losing a lot of lap time on the straights.”
This prompted the deployment of a Virtual Safety Car (VSC) after which Vettel took over on top of the times on softs, the two Mercedes men having remained in their garage at that time.
Eventually, they joined the fray before Pierre Gasly pulled up with power problems at Turn Four. He parked neatly to avoid any need for another VSC.
After an hour’s action, with the teams going into ‘long run’ mode, Vettel remained fastest one-tenth clear of the two Mercedes of Hamilton and Bottas.