Super Stroll tops Friday free practice at Silverstone as Hulkenberg returns

BWT Racing Point driver Lance Stroll backed up the team’s excellent start to the delayed 2020 season by finishing on top of the time sheets after a blisteringly hot opening day of free practice for the British Grand Prix.

The historic Silverstone circuit is celebrating 70 years of Formula One championship racing and, fittingly, the Racing Point headquarters is only 0.3 miles from the circuit. It wasn’t the best of starts on Friday, as news broke that Sergio Perez had failed a COVID-19 test and Nico Hulkenberg was rushed in as a late replacement.

But the versatile Hulkenberg slotted in admirably at such short notice, finishing seventh on the timesheets after an almost sleepless night.

“The last 24 hours have been a bit special, crazy and wild, got the call 4.30pm yesterday afternoon, got the plane here, seat fitted until 2am, simulator for an hour at 8am this morning and prep work but all worthwhile, great effort from the team and want to thank the nightshift guys,” said Hulkenberg. “Amazing job to fit me in the car quite comfortably and the FIA for turning it around so fast with the Super Licence, so its been very special.”

For Stroll, who sits 8th in the championship standings after solid points finishes in Austria and Hungary, his effort was further evidence that the team is justifying its position of ‘best of the rest’, as he topped the times from Red Bull’s Alexander Albon (who suffered a late off track excursion), Valtteri Bottas and Charles Leclerc. Six-time British GP winner Lewis Hamilton was next fastest on the charts, from Carlos Sainz and Hulkenberg as Pierre Gasly, Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen rounded out the top ten.

“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.”

Times clocked during Friday’s free practice sessions can usually be taken with a large pinch of salt, with fuel loads for long running and late soft compound qualifying bursts being taken into consideration. Yet, even at this early stage, it would be very hard to envisage anything but more Mercedes dominance, with Racing Point and Red Bull in close tow behind.

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.