As first practice went green, spectators were greeted by a new iteration of the cockpit protection system, Ferrari showcasing their interpretation of the ‘shield on Sebastian Vettel’s car. The feedback was positive but the poly carbonate screen made vision slightly blurry and caused for some major reflections. Vettel also said he felt dizzy and had to abort his planned run coming straight back into the pits.
Meanwhile, down in Mercedes land both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas arrive at Silverstone with fresh engines, the team replacing the MguH and MguK in both cars. Speaking of Mercedes, Hamilton and Bottas set the pace early on in the session swapping fastest laps at the top end of the table.
With rather dark clouds looming in the background the wind began to pick up and especially in the Maggots and Beckets complex, which is where we saw the first off track excursion of the weekend courtesy of Mr Sebastian Vettel.
The Ferrari driver having a major spin as the car snapped away from him mid-commitment to the final part of Becketts, Seb limped the car back to the pits with no damage apart from the screw loosening flat spots on his tyres.
Lap times continued to be tight at the sharp end of the leader board with just 0.078s separating first and second, Bottas and Hamilton respectively.
Things stayed in Noah’s Ark formation for much of the session as the Mercs lead from the two Red Bulls and then the duo of Ferrari’s. Max Verstappen edging out Daniel Ricciardo by 0.4s for third position and Kimi Räikkönen replicating that in his prancing horse.
Kvyat finished up in seventh with an issue late in the session and Fernando Alonso gave McLaren fans something to cheer about filling 8th place with a dash of orange.
Felipe Massa who had carbon fibre bits flying off his Williams in the opening minutes took out ninth while Stoffel Vandoorne made it two McLaren’s in the top ten.
So as expected, tight between the Silver Arrows but a reasonable gap to the rest, frighteningly, the two Mercs set their times on the soft compound whereas the Red Bull’s and Ferrari’s were on supersoft’s.
0.4s to the rest of the field on a slower compound? That leaves a few heads scratching…
The second practice session got off to a relatively clean start until Carlos Sainz ventured across the grass at Maggots and Becketts in his Torro Rosso. Sparks flew and lap times plummeted with Lewis Hamilton dipping into the 1m 28s early on as Billy Monger watched on in the Mercedes garage.
With the track still green a few drivers were having trouble, Palmer found himself facing the wrong way at Brooklands while Hamilton had a huge moment through Chapel almost losing the car on the kerb and kicking up a cloud of dust.
On the other side of the garage, Bottas strapped on a set of Supersoft tyres and went for gold lapping 0.047s faster than Hamilton’s soft tyre lap as Räikkönen and Vettel also improved with their fresh Supersoft rubber.
As the log runs began the wind picked up and the yellow flags flew, a few drivers having some lucky moments down at Becketts as their cars ended up facing the wrong way with a couple of hefty flat spots. Fortunately, none of them found the barrier though.
Almost losing his front wing was Max Verstappen having a rather close call with Felipe Massa at the final corner, the Dutch driver being slightly blocked by the Brazilian as he tried to pass Massa.
With the chequered flag flying Mercedes lead Ferrari who led Red Bull and from sixth onwards its wide open. Bottas once again shows his strong one lap and long run pace but fifth place Verstappen ending up with the fastest average long run lap time. Hamilton took second while Räikkönen led Vettel in Ferrari land and fore-mentioned Verstappen led Ricciardo in the Red Bull camp.
Fernando Alonso once again made it into the top 10 for McLaren in 9th and Force India’s Esteban Ocon claimed the tenth place spot.
So then, just as the morning session, Mercedes one-two but things are looking closer and closer with only 0.047s between them.
Free Practice 2 times-
Images- F1.com, Sutton Images and Motorsport.com https://www.motorsport.com/f1/photo/main-gallery/valtteri-bottas-mercedes-benz-f1-w08-13854350/?&i=41&id=13854350&sz=8&s=-6