Practice 1: Button sets early pace as McLaren show promise
20 July, 2012
Jul.20 (Apex) Jenson Button gave McLaren a much needed boost to take top spot on the timing sheets, ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton, at the end of the first free practice session of the German Grand Prix weekend at Hockenheim.
The Woking squad need a reversal of fortune to put behind them a couple of below par race weekends, and reaffirm their championship ambitions. They have started the weekend in Germany in the best way possible, but the big question is: will they be able to sustain the pace?
Their record so far this has been pretty similar, where they have shown early pace but failed to deliver when it mattered – with the exception of Australia and Canada.
Button wasted no time getting into the groove and was first of the drivers to set a meaningful time, and with heavy clouds starting to drop their load on certain sectors of the track he popped a 1 minute 16.595 seconds lap which was way quicker than anyone out on track at that time and remained the best time of the morning. Button went on to notch up 27 laps in the 90 minutes.
Hamilton, in contrast, set his best time during a flurry of quick laps right at the very end of the session and ended 0.498 seconds down on his teammate.
Best of the rest was Fernando Alonso in the flo-viz covered Ferrari F2012, the world championship leader looking feisty and aggressive in Germany, and third best time was his reward. Felipe Massa was eighth best.
Local hero Michael Schumacher was fourth fastest in the Mercedes, with teammate Nico Rosberg seventh on the timing screens when the session ended.
Sergio Perez and Sauber were again showing handy pace, proving that the C31 is a true all-rounder and capable of being the surprise package just about anywhere. The Mexican was fifth fastest, with Kamui Kobayashi 11th on the timing sheets.
Nico Hulkenberg would have been pleased that the Force India VJM05 appears well suited to the nuances of his home track, and he made the most of it by finishing the session sixth fastest. Teammate Paul di Resta watched proceedings from the pit garage as reserve driver Jules Bianchi was on cockpit duty, he ended the morning 16th fastest.
The Williams 2012 repair bill continues to mount, but this time it did not involve Pastor Maldonado who ended the session ninth fastest, as reserve driver Valterri Bottas lost the back end of the Williams FW34, under breaking into the Sachs Curve, and planted Bruno Senna’s race car in the wall.
Rounding out the top ten was Romain Grosjean in the Lotus, with Kimi Raikkonen down in 15th having spent the session evaluating a barrage of visible and not so visible updates on the E20.
Well out of the top ten were the Red Bull pair of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber, 12th and 20th respectively who were clearly oblivious to setting any hot lap times and focused on their updates for the weekend at hand.
The first session of the weekend took place under ominous clouds, with enough drizzle falling to cause a few heart stopping moments out on track. There were several off track excursions, big oversteer moments and loads of understeer, but nothing serious apart from Bottas’ close encounter.
Pirelli had a new experimental hard tyre being tried by the field for the first time which rendered first practice a de facto test session. This and the rain combined to render the session very difficult to evaluate form.
German Grand Prix Free Practice 1 – Friday, 20 July 2012
|6||12||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:17.599||1.004||17|
|12||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:18.339||1.744||21|
|16||11||Jules Bianchi||Force India-Mercedes||1:18.972||2.377||21|
|20||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:20.122||3.527||27|
|23||22||Pedro de la Rosa||HRT-Cosworth||1:21.138||4.543||24|