German Grand Prix – Ferrari’s Friday as Gasly crashes heavily

Charles Leclerc topped the timesheets at Hockenheim on Friday after Pierre Gasly walked away unharmed from a big shunt in free practice 2 for the German Grand Prix.

Most of the talk building up to the weekend’s action centred on Mercedes, the team celebrating 125 years of motorsport with a striking livery at their home circuit.

But it was Ferrari who struck the early psychological blow after the opening day of running in sweltering conditions, Leclerc’s 1m13.449s mark 0.124s quicker than teammate Sebastian Vettel’s mark with the drivers topping both sessions.

Mercedes entered the weekend with questions still surrounding the cooling issues that hampered their performance at the Austrian Grand Prix, but Lewis Hamilton was still third quickest in the stifling heat and Valtteri Bottas behind him. And with the weather forecast to be much cooler over the weekend with a chance of rain, Mercedes should be bang in the mix come qualifying and race day.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was next on the timesheets with a 1m14.133s effort, ahead of Romain Grosjean and Acronis partner team Racing Point’s Lance Stroll – Kimi Raikkonen, Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez rounding off the top ten.

But the biggest talking point of the final session involved the struggling Pierre Gasly, who lost control of his car at the final corner before smashing into the barriers. Thankfully, the Frenchman walked away with nothing more than a bruised ego, and his confidence may also have taken a hit in a season that has seen him struggle to match the pace of teammate Verstappen.

The session was a particularly encouraging one for Racing Point, who brought major aerodynamic upgrades to Germany in an attempt to gain the upper hand in an intriguing midfield battle.

“I felt happy with the car. It is early days, but it looks like we have made a step forward with the upgrade,” said Stroll, after the session. “You can see the car looks quite different and it’s encouraging to be in the top ten for both sessions. It’s only Friday, though, and there is lots of work to be done to carry this performance through until Sunday. Track temperatures were very hot, but looking at the forecast we could see a big change for the weekend.”

The third free practice session begins at 12.00 CET on Saturday morning before the all-important qualifying session.

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.