Practice 1: Sutil top in wet, Hamilton crashes

A marshal checks on Leiws Hamilton after he crashed in first practice at Hockenheim

A marshal checks on Lewis Hamilton after he crashed in first practice at Hockenheim

Jul. 23 (Grand Prix 247) Adrian Sutil has further enhanced his reputation as one of the best wet weather Formula 1 drivers of his generation as he was fastest of all in the soaking opening free practice session of the German Grand Prix weekend. Sutil, racing on home soil, was a second faster than his closest rival in a session that saw F1 World Championship Lewis Hamilton leader shunt.

Sebastian Vettel' Red Bull generates spray at Hockenheim

Sebastian Vettel' Red Bull generates spray at Hockenheim

Rain affected the session from the moment the track went green, starting with a fully wet track and exacerbated by large puddles. Gradually the rain eased up and towards the end of the session there was a visible dry line, but it was wet weather tyre testing throughout. It looks as if the conditions will remain much the same for the rest of the day.

The conditions were tough and everyone had a moment or two, but just after the hour mark Hamilton lost the backend of his McLaren Mercedes exiting Turn 3. He tried in vain to correct it all but became a passenger as the MP4-25 slammed the tyre wall. The result was substantial damage particularly to the back end. Before emerging from the wreck unscathed Hamilton summed it up over the radio: “The car is in the wall and is damaged heavily.”

Adrian Sutil mastering the wet conditions

Adrian Sutil mastering the wet conditions

Force India’s Sutil spent most of the session at the top of the timing screens and set his time late on in the sesssion as a dry line had formed among the wet patches on the Hockenheim tarmac.

Felipe Massa spun his Ferrari as he came to terms with the conditions but recovered well and by the end of the session was second fastest.

McLaren Mercedes may have taken heart, after a tough morning in Germany, with Jenson Button who posted the third best time of the session, despite the reigning F1 World Champion radioing the team during the session an ominous message, “Rear stability is terrible”. Early indications are that the Woking squad are in for a tough weekend.

Vitaly Petrov in action under the gloom of Hockenheim

Vitaly Petrov in action under the gloom of Hockenheim

Known for his wet weather prowess Rubens Barrichello survived a spin in Turn 3 around the 40 minute mark but recovered to end the session fourth quickest.

Despite uncertainty regarding his future credit must be given to Renault’s Vitaly Petrov for, on a number of occasions, showing his strength in dealing with adverse conditions. Once again the Russian rookie tackled the wet with gusto to end fifth fastest, fastest Renault powered runner in the session.

Nico Rosberg (Mercedes GP) was sixth fastest ahead of Sebastien Buemi (Toro Rosso), Nico Hulkenberg (Williams), Vitantonio Liuzzi (Force India) and Pedro de la Rosa (Sauber) rounding up the top ten.

Mark Webber during the opening session at Hockenheim

Mark Webber during the opening session at Hockenheim

Both Red Bull drivers were out of the top ten with Sebastian Vettel 11th and Mark Webber 14th. However it is perhaps early in the weekend for the team to start showing their potential.

BBC’s Jonathan Legard observed, “Red Bull’s relentless rate of development continues in Germany. There was yet another run of cardboard boxes through the paddock last night with the team’s mechanics wheeling through a new floor and other new parts for the opening practice sessions.” Stay tuned.

With rain being the great leveler in motorsport, Timo Glock took the opportunity to showcase his talent and gave Virgin racing the highest record they have ever had in any session since their birth – the German was 12th fastest. Team mate Lucas di Grassi was 18th best.

Timo Glock took advantage of the rain to showcase his talent in the rain

Timo Glock took advantage of the rain to showcase his talent in the rain

Robert Kubica was 13th and well down on his rookie team mate, in fact the Pole was close to two seconds of Petrov’s pace.

Another new team driver to take advantage of the conditions was Jarno Trulli (Lotus) who ended the 15th best while regular team mate Heikki Kovalainen sat out the session as test driver Fairuz Fauzy was on duty, ending 21st fastest.

Jaime Alguersuari ended 16th on the timing screens but was well over a second down on his Toro Rosso team mate Buemi.

Hamilton, whose session was curtailed by his accident, was recorded as 17th fastest when the flag brought the session to an end.

Fernando Alonso was down the order

Fernando Alonso was down the order

Way down the order was Ferarri’s Fernando Alonso, 2.7 seconds off team mate Massa, and only managing 15 laps in the session compared to Massa’s 27 laps. But the Spaniard appeared to have a plan, opting to save his tyres for the afternoon, confident that the track conditions will be more settled.

Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber) was 20th on the timing sheets at the end of the session just over a second down on team mate De la Rosa.

Bruno Senna was back in the Hispania cockpit after missing out at Silverstone. His session ended with a spin into the gravel where he was beached. He ended the session 22nd which was still one second faster than his team mate Sakon Yamamoto who was slowest of all. The Japanese driver replacing Karun Chandhok in germany.

Michael Schuamcher had a troubles

Michael Schuamcher had a troubled session

Slowest (but for Yamamoto) was seven times World Champion, German hero Michael Schumacher who was back home at Hockenheim where he has won four times in the past. On the opening day the Mercedes GP driver was 23rd on the timing screens. His team admitted that they were having problems with their rear wing and as a result Schumacher only managed 13 laps in the 90 minutes.

Friday practice sessions tend to be disregarded as a pointer to race day pace and perhaps with the rain this is even more so. Teams are concerned that both practice days will be wet while on race day the track may be dry. This poses problems as they will have had no dry running to ascertain the value of their updates developed for dry conditions and also to establish a race setup. The last time the teams were at Hockenheim was in 2008 when the cars were vastly different and refueling was allowed….

Practice 1 – 23 July 2010

Pos No Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1 14 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:25.701 20
2 7 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:26.850 1.149 27
3 1 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:26.936 1.235 16
4 9 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1:26.947 1.246 21
5 12 Vitaly Petrov Renault 1:26.948 1.247 21
6 4 Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP 1:27.448 1.747 20
7 16 Sebastien Buemi STR-Ferrari 1:28.114 2.413 31
8 10 Nico Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1:28.193 2.492 24
9 15 Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1:28.300 2.599 19
10 22 Pedro de la Rosa BMW Sauber-Ferrari 1:28.486 2.785 23
11 5 Sebastian Vettel RBR-Renault 1:28.735 3.034 21
12 24 Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1:28.735 3.034 21
13 11 Robert Kubica Renault 1:28.903 3.202 20
14 6 Mark Webber RBR-Renault 1:29.048 3.347 13
15 18 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1:29.280 3.579 17
16 17 Jaime Alguersuari STR-Ferrari 1:29.366 3.665 34
17 2 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:29.429 3.728 8
18 25 Lucas di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 1:29.500 3.799 19
19 8 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:29.684 3.983 15
20 23 Kamui Kobayashi BMW Sauber-Ferrari 1:29.690 3.989 17
21 19 Fairuz Fauzy Lotus-Cosworth 1:30.938 5.237 27
22 21 Bruno Senna HRT-Cosworth 1:31.720 6.019 23
23 3 Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP 1:32.450 6.749 13
24 20 Sakon Yamamoto HRT-Cosworth 1:32.791 7.090 26