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Top 3 covered by just 0.074 in FP3... and then the rain arrives

NEWS STORY
15/07/2017

Ahead of today's sole practice session, the air temperature is 15 degrees C, while the track temperature is 20 degrees. It is somewhat nippy and overcast with just a hint of rain in the air. Indeed, the risk of rain stands, officially, at 80%.

Valtteri Bottas topped the timesheets in both of yesterday's sessions, but was subsequently hit with as 5-place grid penalty after Mercedes elected to change his gearbox having encountered similar damage to that of Lewis Hamilton post-Baku.

Then, this morning it was confirmed that Red Bull has changed the gearbox on Daniel Ricciardo's car thereby handing the Australian a similar penalty and no doubt causing teammate Max Verstappen some concern, the youngster having failed to finish 5 of the last 7 races.

All of which is good news for Lewis Hamilton, who, like Bottas appeared formidable yesterday.

Ferrari turned up the wick in FP2, but was still somewhat off the pace, though we are hoping the Italian team, which has a significant upgrade here, might show its hand over the next hour, especially in the Q3 sims.

On the other hand, Mercedes also has an engine upgrade, so, providing the weather gods don't interfere, we could see a real head-to-head later in the hour.

Behind the three leading teams yesterday, it was a real mish-mash, with Hulkenberg, ahead of Massa, Alonso, Ocon and the Toro Rossos. Needless to say, the McLaren driver will start from the back of the grid - possibly the old grid - after picking up numerous engine penalties.

Wehrlein is first out, followed by Ricciardo, Magnussen, Ericsson, Palmer and Vandoorne.

With an eye on the weather, Hamilton is among the early risers, and in no time at all is atop the timesheets with a 29.544, the Briton already well and truly on the pace.

"Conditions are OK," says Kvyat. "It's obviously very cold, but there's no drizzle anywhere."

Vettel posts 3.191 and Bottas 29.393, both Mercedes on softs - as was the case yesterday - and the Ferrari on supers.

Raikkonen (supers) goes third with a 29.897, the Finn subsequently reporting that "it's starting to rain".

Rain or not, the Mercedes duo trade fastest sectors. Hamilton improves to 29.069 while Bottas bangs in a 28.827. Vettel takes third with a 29.259.

A 28.747 sees Hamilton go top as Ricciardo posts 29.922 to go fifth and displace his Red Bull teammate.

After 13 minutes of running, only 12 drivers have posted times... though all but Vettel, Magnussen and Massa are on track.

As Verstappen re-takes fifth, Ocon goes seventh (30.355) ahead of Sainz and Perez.

"I'm not going to push anymore, because I don't trust the car," admits Kvyat.

As Massa becomes the last driver to post a time (31.976), Ocon improves to seventh with a 30.172. Force India could be the real beneficiaries from the penalties meted out to Bottas and Ricciardo.

Mistakes by Stroll and Grosjean sees both drivers run wide in T15.

Bottas heads out on the supers, followed by teammate Hamilton. The German could be bringing its Q3 sim runs forward with an eye on the weather.

As the begin their flying laps, Raikkonen reports that it's "raining quite heavy in Turn 3".

Nonetheless, Hamilton goes quickest in S1, maintaining pace in S2. At the line he posts 28.063, leaving Bottas 0.764s in his wake.

While Bottas is posting PBs, Vettel goes quickest in S1. Bottas improves to 28.214, 0.151s off Hamilton's pace, while Vettel continues to set a strong pace. At the line the German posts 28.095, just 0.032s down on the Mercedes.

Raikkonen can only manage 28.977, almost a second off Hamilton's best.

Next time around Bottas improves to 28.137 but remains third, while countryman Raikkonen posts 28.732.

A 30.211 sees Vandoorne go ninth, teammate Alonso currently 11th.

From out of nowhere, Hulkenberg produces a 29.480 to go fifth, behind the Ferraris and ahead of the Red Bulls. Teammate Palmer is currently 18th.

"I'm getting some vibration from the engine," warns Palmer. "Fourth gear, high revs."

As Palmer improves to 11th (3.309), Alonso is warned that it's raining in the final chicane. Nonetheless, the Spaniard improves to tenth (30.138).

A 28.819 from Grosjean demotes Verstappen to 8th, the Red Bull driver 1.841s off the pace.

"Box this lap, I have bad shifts," warns Vandoorne, the Belgian is indeed told to pit immediately.

Check out our Saturday gallery from Silverstone, here.

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