Summer, it’s been said about the United Kingdom, comes on a Wednesday. The 2019 summer, especially in the latter part of July, has come on a Wednesday…and a Thursday…and a Friday…you get the picture. But in this case, it’s across the U.K. and Europe, with the Hockenehimring copping track temperatures of over 50 degrees Celcius. The heat also got to a hotel lift where a number of the drivers were staying, with the chirpy Australian humour of Daniel Ricciardo coming to the fore.
“Elevator got stuck,” he smiled in a social media post, before adding jokingly that the race was “cancelled”. There’d be no doubt that some would be thinking the same, including the under-siege Pierre Gasly. Practice in the sweltering temperatures ensured everyone was on a level playing field, with the rubber and drivers suffering in equal measure. Gasly found the limit of adhesion during Free Practice 2, with a wide run to drivers left heading towards the main straight seeing the tortured rubber slip into the grass and Gasly was a passenger. He almost held his Red Bull from the wall but the impact was enough to see the car require substantial overnight repairs.
This weekend is also notable for the leading team this season displaying a little piece of history. Mercedes-Benz says:”The special Hockenheim livery is an homage to the design of classic Mercedes-Benz racing cars. The front wing and the nose of the car are painted white – similar in design to Mercedes race cars in the beginning of the 20th century. Back then, the colour of the car would symbolise the origin of the team – French cars were typically painted blue, Italian cars red and British cars green. The international racing colors for German cars was white.” Other parts of the car have had their livery done as if some of the normal silver paint has been scraped off. Mercedes have also acknowledged again the contribution of their late mentor, Niki Lauda, with his signature included with others on the nose of the cars.
Both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas agreed that the weather was extreme, with the dour Finn stating he’d never driven in conditions like those found at the circuit before. The heat, though, spurred Ferarri’s Charles Leclerc into action, with the Monagesque driver clocking a best of 1:13.449, leading his team mate and home town hopeful Sebastian Vettel by a bare 0.124. Hamilton was on pace and would be third in the two practice sessions on Friday.
Qualifying, however, was red, as in Ferrari bled out from qualifying, with Sebastian Vettel’s car having a terminal turbo issue. FP3 was also held in warm conditions and everything looked fine for qualfying. It took less than a lap for Vettel to report a problem, and garaged the car. “Obviously very bitter, I think the car was great and I lost out on a big chance but hopefully we’ll have a big one coming tomorrow.” said an annoyed Vettel.
Charles Leclerc didn’t fare well either.Q1 and Q2 were completed satisfactorily but come Q3 and the dragon’s fire went out inside Leclerc’s fuel delivery system. After the car was returned to the garage and time taken to investigate, the fuel pump control unit was diagnosed as the cause.
As such, Lewis Hamilton could potentially count himself lucky to snare yet another 2019 pole, with his 1:11.767 nearly a half second ahead of Bottas, who will start from third. The Finn bemoaned his qualifying laps, saying he didn’t feel as if he’d been able to string consistency together in his laps. Regardless of his feelings, his 1:12.129 was barely off the second grid spot time of Max Verstappen with 1:12.113. Verstappen, too, wasn’t free from drama, with his Red Bull losing power intermittently during Q2. Right behind him for P4 will be team mate Pierre Gasly.
P5 and it’s the Alfa Romeo Racing’s Kimi Raikkonen. He and the rest of the top ten are names not normally seen in numbers so far, with P6 the Haas of Romain Grosjean, P7 the improving McLaren of Carlos Sainz, and the Racing Point entry of Sergio Perez for P8. Nico Hulkenberg was the last driver to make it through to Q3 for P9, and he’ll start with Leclerc next door.
P11 was well and truly up for grabs, with three drivers within hundredths of each other. Ultimately it was Antonio Giovinazzi with 1:12.786 just pipping Kevin Magnussen on 1:12.789, and Daniel Ricciardo for P13 on 1:12.799. With Vettel starting rear of grid, it’s Daniil Kvyat, Lance Stroll, Lando Norris, Alexander Albon, George Russell, and Robert Kubica to fill in the field. Magnussen was on track to get through to Q3 but a moment’s lockup was enough to knock him from Q3 contention. Norris also expressed frustration, saying: “I’m obviously disappointed. It’s the first time I’ve missed out on Q2, frustrated because of that and annoyed because it’s not giving me a very good starting position.”
Ricciardo mused: “We were the last ones in the 12.7secs and less than half a tenth would have put me eighth and through. In that regard, the midfield is enjoyable as it’s so close.” And this could be were the real on-track action will be. With the field shaken up yet with some very competitive drivers in the mid-field, eyes should be looking there for the German F1 Grand Prix. The race gets underway at 15:10 local time.