Ricciardo on top during rain-hit British Grand Prix practice
British Grand Prix 1st Practice session: Daniel Ricciardo leads the way at wet Silverstone
The British Grand Prix got off to a typically wet start on Friday as the morning’s first practice session was almost completely washed out.
With teams unwilling to risk a major accident on a sodden circuit at Silverstone, meaningful action was at a premium - indeed, only 11 drivers completed full laps.
Most were content to take on a sector at a time before returning to the pits – and frustratingly for the hardy souls filling the rain-lashed grandstands, the likes of McLaren’s Jenson Button, World Championship leader Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso remained stationary in the pits throughout.
Mark Webber, who announced his decision to move away from Formula 1 yesterday to take up sportscar racing with Porsche, was another who opted to keep dry and safely tucked up in the pits.
Torro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo - in the running to replace Webber - was rewarded for his endeavour as he not only completed the first full lap towards the end of the one-and-a-half hour session but also ended up topping the timesheets with an understandably slow 1:54:249.
Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg was close behind with a 1:55:033, while Williams driver Pastor Maldonado rounded off the top three with a 1:55:354.
Of the drivers expected to challenge at the front this weekend only Lewis Hamilton made it round to set a time, either to get some miles under his belt or to give the British crowd something to cheer about.
The Mercedes man briefly went to the top of the timesheets towards the end of the session as a vaguely dry racing line appeared, only to be knocked down to 4th with his 1:55:485, putting him over a second back from Ricciardo.
Esteban Gutierrez, Valtteri Bottas, Jean-Eric Vergne and Giedo van der Garde all set times, while home favourite Max Chilton and Marussia team-mate Jules Bianchi, along with Ferrari’s Felipe Massa were the remaining drivers to go round the track.
In truth little can be gleaned from the rain-sodden session – although Vettel put his experience to good use as he described the circuit as a ‘bit scary’ over the team radio after he had tip-toed around.
Ricciardo almost learned that to his cost as he briefly lost control after hitting a puddle late in the session, just after Caterham’s Charles Pic had put it in the barriers at the exit of Club Corner with just minutes remaining.
The forecast is set fair for the weekend but the low grey skies over the Northamptonshire circuit appear ominous – although the fans at Silverstone will hope that the forecast for a drier second session proves to be correct.