Mercedes rules Ger­man prac­tice

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - NESHA STARCEVIC

Nico Ros­berg looks ready to snatch back the For­mula One lead from Mercedes team­mate Lewis Hamil­ton.

If Fri­day’s two prac­tice runs are any­thing to go by, Ros­berg ap­pears faster than Hamil­ton head­ing into the Ger­man Grand Prix weekend.

Ros­berg was more than three­tenths of a sec­ond faster than his Mercedes team­mate in both ses­sions. Ros­berg won the last For­mula One race on the Hock­en­heim course two years ago from pole and will now be the favourite for the top spot in Saturday’s qual­i­fy­ing for Sun­day’s race.

“It was a good start into the weekend,” Ros­berg said.

But two-time de­fend­ing cham­pion Hamil­ton has won five of the last six races and vaulted over Ros­berg to the top of the stand­ings with his vic­tory in Hun­gary last Sun­day for a six-point lead.

Ros­berg had a bet­ter start to the sea­son, sweep­ing the first four races.

As they have dur­ing most of the sea­son, the Mercedes cars were in a league of their own.

Se­bas­tian Vet­tel was third in his Fer­rari in both ses­sions. He im­proved in the af­ter­noon de­spite run­ning into traf­fic, end­ing just un­der six-tenths of a sec­ond be­hind Ros­berg.

Max Ver­stap­pen and Daniel Ric­cia­rdo were be­hind in the two Red Bulls, with Fer­rari’s Kimi Raikko­nen sixth.

But the mar­gins were sub­stan­tial.

Ros­berg’s fastest lap on the 4.574kilo­me­tre (2.84-mile) cir­cuit came in the morn­ing, at one minute, 15.517 sec­onds. He did 1:15.614 in the af­ter­noon. Hamil­ton was .326 sec­onds be­hind in the morn­ing and .394 back in the af­ter­noon.

Vet­tel, who was more than a sec­ond be­hind in the morn­ing, cut that deficit to .594 in the af­ter­noon, af­ter com­plain­ing on the team ra­dio of run­ning into too much traf­fic on the course.

“I am wast­ing my time here,” he com­plained.

Ra­dio traf­fic be­tween drivers and their teams has been per­mit­ted again af­ter lim­i­ta­tions im­posed ear­lier this sea­son.

Vet­tel, a four-time cham­pion while still with Red Bull, was born and grew up in nearby Hep­pen­heim and con­sid­ers Hock­en­heim his home course. He is mak­ing a home de­but be­hind the wheel of a Fer­rari.

Ver­stap­pen, the only driver to win a race this sea­son apart from Ros­berg or Hamil­ton, was .842 back. His red Bull team­mate Ric­cia­rdo was .876 be­hind. Raikko­nen was .898 sec­onds adrift.

Force In­dia’s Nico Hulken­berg, McLaren’s Jen­son But­ton, Ser­gio Perez of Force In­dia and McLaren’s Fer­nando Alonso com­pleted the top 10, all more than a sec­ond be­hind.

Former cham­pion But­ton com­plained about an eye ir­ri­ta­tion, while two-time cham­pion Alonso cel­e­brated his 35th birth­day on Fri­day.

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