Mercedes rules German practice
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.