Max Verstappen topped the timesheets at the conclusion of the first practice session at the 2020 British Grand Prix, but it was the Racing Point garage that grabbed the headlines from the morning session.
The weekend did not begin well for the Stroll owned team after Sergio Perez tested positive to COVID-19. The Mexican was immediately ruled out of the back to back races in England. Nico Hulkenberg was hurriedly drafted into the team and excelled with the 9th fastest time of the session. While it was a fairytale start for Hulkenberg, the nightmare continued for Ferrari when an intercooler issue forced Sebastian Vettel to sit out most of the session.
There were also problems for the Alfa Romeo paring of Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi with both drivers caught out by the hard compound tyres. Raikkonen lost the rear tyres on acceleration, while Giovinazzi had his car let go mid corner at Becketts. His high speed spin and subsequent brake lock-up saw both the rear tyres on the Alfa Romeo partially delaminate. The session was stopped after Giovinazzi drove back to the pits leaving a trail of carbon fibre and rubber as the shredded tyres tore into the floor of the car. The session resumed after a lengthy as race officials cleaned the affected area with two large street sweeping machines.
The final results saw a mix of soft and medium compound runners in the top 10, with Verstappen fastest on the soft tyres. Lewis Hamilton and Lance Stroll were second ad third respectively on the medium compound with Alex Albon fourth on the soft tyre. Charles Leclerc restored some hope for Ferrari with the fifth fastest time on medium ahead of Valtteri on softs. Esteban Ocon, Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg rounded out seventh to ninth on the medium compound, while Daniil Kvyat rounded out the top 10 on soft tyres.
Practice 2 brought some comfort to Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari as the German finally took to the circuit after an intercooler issue restricted his running in the opening session of the day. The relief was short-lived, however, when the number 5 Ferrari ran wide at Chapel. Vettel radioed to the team, “There is something loose in the cockpit.” Vettel returned to the garage, climbed out of the car and begun looking around the footwell for the problem. The problem was thought to be a loose brake pedal after Vettel had reported to his team that he had managed to trap the loose part with his foot as drove back to the pitlane. Vettel returned to the track with little more than 25 minuted left in the session. Charles Leclerc compounded Ferrari’s woes with a spin at the entry to turn 4 moments before Vettel’s drama.
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Lance Stroll emerged as the pacesetter in P2 with the fastest time of a 1.27.274. Alex Albon held the second fastest time when he lost control of his Red Bull Racing Honda at Stowe and spun backwards into the armco fence with damage to the left front and rear ends of the car. Max Verstappen’s fast lap was compromised by a dawdling Romain Grosjean in the Haas, which led to a heated series of hand gesticulations between the pair.
Valtteri Bottas completed a relatively low-key day for Mercedes in third, ahead of Charles Leclerc, Lewis Hamilton, Carlos Sainz, Nico Hulkenberg, Pierre Gasly, Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen.
“It’s been a positive day and it feels great to be on top in FP2,” Said Stroll. “The car was strong on both the short and long runs today, so it’s a promising start to the weekend for us. We knew coming into the weekend that Silverstone could suit the car and it looks like we’ve got a good shot at some big points this weekend, although qualifying and the race are where it really matters! My heart goes out to Checo: we’ll definitely miss having him around, but it’s great to welcome Nico back to the team. I’m sure he’s enjoying driving this car – and he’s looking competitive, which is great.”
The result was somewhat of a fairytale ending for Nico Hulkenberg, who ended the day ahead of both Renaults.
“It’s been a really special last 24 hours,” Hulkenberg explained. “At 4.30pm yesterday, I took the call from Otmar and got on the plane. I arrived at the factory and had my seat fit until 2am. I got in the simulator at 8am this morning and had some useful prep work. I want to thank the team for their amazing work to get me into the car today, and the FIA for their help with the superlicence and turning it around so quickly.”
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