Lewis Hamilton proved Nico Rosberg won’t have it all his own way at the German Grand Prix after topping second practice at Hockenheim.
As the red-striped super-soft tyres made their first appearance of the weekend the lap times dropped quite significantly with Hamilton posting a 1:18.341 just under three hundredths quicker than his team-mate.
The picture is slightly obscured, however, as Hamilton had traffic late on his fastest time while Rosberg ran off track during his first effort so didn’t get a lap with fully fresh tyres.
Despite this Daniel Ricciardo was only a tenth behind in third holding a four tenth advantage over Kimi Raikkonen who was fourth for Ferrari.
It was an afternoon that offered some of the hottest temperatures seen all season with the ambient temperature in the low 30′s while the track was approaching 60 degrees, heat usually reserved for the tropical climate in Malaysia.
With the softest compounds being offered by Pirelli most were predicting trouble with high degradation given the super-soft in-particular is a brave choice for Hockenheim without the hot weather.
Overall, however, degradation was good with no sharp drop-off in times over the race simulations albeit the super-soft only lasting for around 10-15 laps.
Thoughts for qualifying
Looking at the single lap pace there remains a few surprises with McLaren still looking competitive with both cars in the top seven whereas Williams seem to have dipped a little from their place as being best of the rest in the last two races.
Ferrari still look in the mix as well for top 10 positions in qualifying as what would be the Q3 places were taken by five teams.
Outside the top 10 Adrian Sutil continues to impress for Sauber mixing with the Force India’s and Toro Rosso’s while it appears to be a battle between Esteban Gutierrez and the two Lotus’s as to which two drivers will join Caterham and Marussia in the knock out zone in Q1.
Kobayashi on fire, literally
Speaking of Caterham, Kamui Kobayashi provided the most notable failure of a car of the day as his CT04 came to a fiery halt approaching the final corners. With the Energy Recovery System (ERS) apparently to blame this could see the Japanese become the first driver to use more than five of a component in the power unit earning him a grid penalty.
Red Bull & Williams a match for Mercedes?
Back to the front for a look at the race simulations and there is a potential three team battle building at the front.
Williams, Mercedes and Red Bull all lapped in the low 1:22′s on the super-soft before running in the high 1:22′s low 1:23′s during their spell on the soft compound tyres.
Nico Hulkenberg also hinted that Force India could use their better tyre conservation to be a factor as well posting the best time of his long run towards the end.
There seems to be a suggestion, however, that maybe Mercedes are running slightly higher fuel and keeping their true pace hidden, while it can be expected there is more to come from Red Bull and co., anything other than a Silver Arrow 1-2 on Sunday in a normal dry race would still be considered a surprise.
Behind the Mercedes, Ferrari and rest of the midfield seem to be a few tenths per lap off the three teams ahead.
As for the battle between the two Mercedes, Hamilton seemed to have the greater consistency while Rosberg could put in times maybe slightly quicker but on a less regular basis.
Everything is therefore beautifully poised heading into the weekend and with another hot day forecast for qualifying we could be set for one of the most important Saturday’s of the season so far