The two Friday practice sessions have given us some indication of how dominant Mercedes were in the lead up to tomorrow’s qualifying. As often been the case this year, the German outfit is still the team to beat but the biggest question is, has the time come for Rosberg, winner of inaugural pole award in 2014, turn the tide towards his favour?
Going into the second session, both Mercedes drivers had already eclipsed last year’s fastest time with Rosberg going more than two tenths faster than Hamilton’s 1:34.508 set in 2014 and held a 1.2 seconds advantage over the nearest finishing Toro Rosso of Verstappen in third.
Though Rosberg took a long lapse to comeback from fixing hydraulic leakage issues that prompted mechanics to work on the gearbox, he was consistent in the longer runs compared to Hamilton and looked kinder on both conservative choices Pirelli have brought in, hard and medium compounds in the afternoon session.
He completed 33 laps on his way to setting the fastest time of the day with a 1:34.155s and gave a feeling that he has more pace on offer. On the contrary, the home town hero Hamilton was nowhere as comfortable as his team-mate and reported his car was not what he intended it to handle like.
The Briton did a 1:34.621s in his first attempt on optional medium rubber and struggled with single-lap pace whilst performing many practice starts during and after the sessions as he was set to avoid the poor getaway that caused him a shot at winning the Austrian GP.
Thus Rosberg appeared to be the one to have a flourishing chance at clinching the pole but his rival and Mercedes team-mate Hamilton may find the sweet spot in the final practice session or during qualifying and turn his fortunes around as witnessed already this year. So be aware!
Despite finishing only three tenths off the pace, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel reckoned that Mercedes have more pace in reserve. It was hard to choose between the quadruple champion Vettel and Raikkonen as they were so evenly matched in both the sessions. But to fight for top honours on Saturday they admittedly are quite a way off the mark at this stage.
Toro Rosso rookies had put on a brilliant driving display again, especially the teenager Verstappen who finished in third and seventh while his team-mate Sainz did most laps than anybody with a total of 37 in the afternoon.
The former acknowledged yesterday that his team’s chassis is only second to Mercedes’ this year and should his claims be right they must deliver good results on the high speed Silverstone circuit.
Ricciardo and Kvyat found themselves in a comfortable zone within top ten throughout the day. The Australian saw it coming perhaps as he already suggested that Silverstone would be the turning point for the Milton Keynes based team’s troubled season.
Williams’ home race has so far been disappointing as they went from being the third-best team to languish somewhere in the bottom half. Driving the B-spec Force India for the first time, Nico Hulkenberg seemed to be well-placed to fancy a spot in Q3 whilst the same cannot be said for team-mate Sergio Perez who had his own struggles.
Lotus relied heavily on their upgrade package that failed to materialise in bringing performance. Grosjean triggered a red flag moment when he beached at Luffield where Alonso and Merhi made trips into the gravel trap as well. McLaren drivers’ dire season might get to a new low as Alonso and Button are destined for positions at the bottom quarter of the field with Sauber and Manor Marussia. (Suren M)