Significant upgrades to the two Mercedes cars appears to have put them back towards the front of the field following the three British Grand Prix free practice sessions. A revised front suspension, new sidepod vanes, upgraded floor and rear and bib wing tweaks have put George Russell and Lewis Hamilton at a similar pace to the front-running teams of Red Bull and Ferrari.
Weather conditions marred Friday’s FP1, with wet conditions and wind challenging drivers. Only 10 cars set lap times during the session, with limited run times meaning clearer conditions for the later FP2 were hoped for by teams to allow for data collection.
Valtteri Bottas set the fastest time of the session, half a second ahead of 8-time race winner Hamilton. The Ferrari’s of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc set the 3rd and 4th fastest times respectively, with the leading Constructor Championship team of Red Bull not setting a lap.
Dry conditions were the wish of the teams in the afternoon’s FP2, and they got what they wanted, allowing for testing of upgrades many are bringing to the weekend. Wind still proved an issue, disturbing Lando Norris, Max Verstappen and George Russel at various points throughout the session, pushing them wide off track or forcing lockups.
Porpoising was again apparent in many of the cars this session, including the Mercedes of Hamilton and the Ferrari of Sainz.
A new, upgraded floor caused issues at Aston Martin, forcing Sebastian Vettel returning to the garage early in the session due to its weakness causing damage. He managed to re-emerge later in the session to set some lap times.
Sainz topped the session ahead of Hamilton and Norris, with championship leader Verstappen 4th and Leclerc 5th.
Threats of rain meant teams put in fast laps early in Saturday’s FP3, with drops starting to fall 20 minutes into the session. This proved to be a tease, with the session remaining dry until its conclusion
Russell reported the revised front suspension had reduced the bouncing effect on his car, with Hamilton also appearing to run much smoother in comparison to FP2. There were moments, however, where both drivers reported bouncing, particularly at turn six.
Track conditions improved dramatically in the final 15 minutes of the session, with Red Bull utilising the increase in speed for Verstappen and Sergio Perez to set the fastest two times of the session. Despite the majority of drivers spending good time on track, Verstappen managed to set a time half a second faster than the fastest of Perez.
Leclerc set the 3rd fastest, with the two Mercedes 4th and 5th ahead of Sainz.
With qualifying to follow, it appears there will be three teams competing for the poll position for the first time this season.
Qualifying starts at 2am NZ time.