HOCKENHEIM: Max Verstappen kept Red Bull on top of the German Grand Prix practice timesheets, and Lewis Hamilton off them, yesterday after team mate Daniel Ricciardo was fastest in the first session.
The 20-year-old Dutch driver set the quickest lap of one minute 13.085 in the afternoon, when track temperatures were around 46 degrees Celsius, with Formula One world champion Hamilton second and 0.026 slower for Mercedes.
Hamilton, who admittedly made a mistake on his best effort, had been four thousandths of a second off the pace in the morning when Ricciardo lapped in 1:13.525.
Verstappen’s pace may concern Mercedes more than Ricciardo’s, with the Australian set to start from the back of the grid due to an accumulation of grid penalties after power unit changes.
Verstappen, who did only 18 laps to Hamilton’s 39 in the afternoon, lost some time with the team working on his car’s engine.
Ricciardo, whose penalties were tactical to ensure he has the best possible chance in Hungary next week at a circuit that should be a better natural fit for the Red Bulls, was 13th in the afternoon.
Verstappen had been third fastest in the day’s uneventful opening session, with Ferrari’s championship leader Sebastian Vettel fourth in both.
Vettel, who leads Hamilton by eight points halfway through the season, grew up in nearby Heppenheim and first fell in love with the sport as a child when he went to his home race in the glory days of Michael Schumacher.
Finland’s Valtteri Bottas, a new Mercedes contract announced an hour before practice started, was fifth and third in the respective sessions while Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen was sixth and fifth.
Sauber’s Monegasque rookie Charles Leclerc, strongly tipped to replace 2007 world champion Raikkonen at Ferrari next year, was an impressive ninth and eighth in the two sessions.
Italian test driver Antonio Giovinazzi drove for Sauber in the morning, before handing back to Sweden’s Marcus Ericsson who could manage only the 14th best time.
Canadian reserve Nicholas Latifi also had a stint in the Force India that Frenchman Esteban Ocon will race.
Williams and McLaren, two once-dominant former champions now struggling at the back of the pack, had another tough day.
Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne was 20th and last in both sessions for McLaren, while Williams pair Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin was 18th and 19th respectively. McLaren’s Fernando Alonso was 17th.
McLaren have said they are using Friday practice sessions mainly for testing purposes as they try to rectify their aerodynamic problems.