Rosberg sets opening pace at Hockenheim

18/07/2014
NEWS STORY

Ahead of today's opening practice session, the air temperature is 25 degrees C, while the track temperature is 35 degrees. It is warm... and it is going to get a whole lot warmer.

Tyres available this weekend are soft (prime) and supersoft (option).

For the first time at Hockenheim there are two DRS zones. The detection point of the first is 110m before T1, with the activation point 60m after T1. The second detection point is at the exit of T4, with the activation point 260m after T4.

The big news - at a time that events elsewhere in the world put F1 truly in perspective - is that none of the teams are running front to rear linked suspension systems (FRIC) this weekend, thereby avoiding the possibility of teams protesting one another. For now.

That said, some believe Red Bull could benefit more from the 'ban'.

Once again, there are a couple of reserve drivers on duty, most notably Susie Wolff who will be hoping to get a bit more mileage than he enjoyed at Silverstone. Elsewhere, Giedo Van der Garde is in the Sauber following his heavy crash in the final moments of last week's Silverstone test. They are replacing Bottas and Gutierrez respectively.

The lights go green and Wolff leads the way, followed by Vergne, Ericsson, Massa and Van der Garde.

Oh dear. Wolff has slowed to a crawl. "I have a problem with the upshift," she complains. The car is still moving, so she has drive. She is told to continue and try to get the car back. Elsewhere, suspect smoke pours from the back of Chilton's Marussia.

As Wolff slowly makes her way through the stadium section, all the other 21 drivers have been out for an installation lap.

Despite the availability of an extra set of tyres and near perfect condition, there is a period of total inactivity. If the FIA really wants to act on something...

Finally, an engine fires up and Ericsson heads down the pitlane, the Swede subsequently posting the first time of the weekend (1:28.480). Elsewhere, Williams reports Wolff's problem has been "resolved" and she will be out again soon.

Ericsson is joined by Caterham teammate Kobayashi who immediately goes quicker with a 24.466.

As more cars take to the track, Wolff posts 22.481 to go quickest, only to be leapfrogged by Magnussen in the McLaren (20.471).

After the lull it is now quite busy, suspension testing clearly on the agenda following the removal of the FRIC systems.

Having gone quickest in the first two sectors, Hamilton slows in order to find some space whilst teammate Rosberg reports "debris at Turn 6". The German subsequently locks up in front of a totally empty grandstand at T15.

"We have a problem with the water pump," Raikkonen is told, "slow down and come back to the pits."

As Button goes second (20.576) to make it a McLaren 1-2, both Mercedes drivers are having problems remaining on the black stuff, appearing to run wide in numerous corners.

A 20.337s sees Rosberg take the top spot, while Vettel goes fourth ahead of Alonso. Hamilton, currently 16th (22.688), goes quickest in the first two sectors again before once again aborting the lap.

With Chilton and Raikkonen still to post times, Vettel goes quickest with a 20.295.

As the opening half-hour comes to an end most drivers return to the pits to hand back their 'free' tyres.

Current order is: Vettel, Rosberg, Magnussen, Ricciardo, Alonso, Button, Sutil, Vergne, Massa and Perez.

After a brief (seven minute lull) Chilton heads down the pitlane to get the session back underway. Hopefully.

As Chilton posts a 23.299 to go 19th, he is joined on track by Kobayashi. The Japanese has already completed 14 laps, more than any other driver.

Ferrari reports that Raikkonen has a water pump issue which it is trying to resolve.

Ericsson, Kvyat, Vergne and Vettel head down the pitlane, the Russian immediately going third quickest with a 20.425. He looked set to go quickest but made a mistake in T16. Vettel is on a six timed lap run.

Running wide in T1, Vettel immediately compromises his lap. Following the clamp-down in Austria and Silverstone it is likely that the Stewards will be watching very carefully again this weekend.

Ass Hulkenberg improves to tenth (20.833), Raikkonen is on track, the Finn immediately going quickest in S2 before going on to post a 20.454 which puts him fifth.

Grosjean runs wide after what appeared to be a problem with his DRS, the flap not appearing to close properly.

No sooner has Button posted a 20.087 than Ricciardo becomes the first driver to break the 1:19s barrier, the Red Bull driver stopping the clock at 19.697.

Rosberg goes quickest (19.276) as teammate Hamilton runs wide in T8 and Raikkonen locks-up in T13.

TV cameras pick up on Grosjean's car in the Lotus garage, the DRS flap clearly broken. A new rear wing will be fitted.

Hamilton makes it a Mercedes 1-2, the Briton posting a 19.545 as teammate Rosberg ups the ante with a 19.131.

"Losing FRIC suspension means they must run the front of the F1 cars higher/stiffer," tweets Martin Brundle. "We are seeing lots of cars running wide in slow corners."

Indeed, despite the widespread dismissal of the need for the systems and the problems removing them might cause, the bottom line is that if they weren't worthwhile they wouldn't have been on the cars in the first place.

Behind the Mercedes duo, it's: Alonso, Ricciardo, Button, Vettel, Magnussen, Raikkonen, Kvyat and Vergne.

As the slo-mo cameras synonymous with Germany pick up on Perez' left-front wheel taking a massive pounding from the kerbs, Hamilton goes quickest in the first two sectors before diving into the pits.

Wolff improves to 15th, just 0.2s off Massa's pace. The Brazilian runs wide in T1, doing well to keep the car from snapping out but taking a pounding from the kerb.

Van der Garde complains of "understeer everywhere". Likewise Massa who subsequently pits.

With 15 minutes remaining Rosberg, Ricciardo, Button, Vettel, Magnussen, Raikkonen, Kvyat, Hulkenberg and Ericsson are the only drivers on track.

The rear of his car smothered in flo-vis, Hamilton heads back to the pits after just one lap. "Low power in the initial stage of acceleration," he reports.

As Alonso pits after running wide in T8, Vettel is told that his 22.7 is a good base.

Both Lotus' well off the pace, running 17th and 18th, over 2.4s off Rosberg's best.

Van der Garde rattles some filling as he runs wide in T1 and runs over the kerbs.

Vettel continues to lap in the low 1:23s, consistently quicker than his Red Bull teammate.

Camera picks up on the rear of Vettel's car taking a tremendous pounding as he rides the kerbs in the final corner.

The session ends with Rosberg quickest, ahead of Hamilton, Alonso, Ricciardo, Button, Vettel, Magnussen, Raikkonen, Kvyat and Sutil.

Massa is eleventh, ahead of Vergne, Hulkenberg, Perez, Wolff, Van der Garde, Grosjean, Maldonado, Kobayashi, Bianchi, Ericsson and Chilton.

Check out our Friday gallery, here.

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Published: 18/07/2014
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