Hockenheim FP3: Leclerc tops as rain pours down

After a Friday of glorious sunshine over Hockenheim, German Grand Prix qualifying day dawned with rain pelting down and as a result very little track action happened in FP3, conditions such that qualifying is sure to be affected in some way.

Many drivers did not even venture out on to the circuit until the final ten minutes of the one-hour session, both Ferraris, both Mercedes and both Force Indias remained under cover until they tip-toed out late to sample the conditions.

Most of those who did venture out either spun or went wide as conditions proved undrivable with the high risk of an off and damage.

After a quarter of an hour running Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg was the only driver to set a time when he went around in a 1:36.873 – a massive 23 seconds off the dry pace around the venue.

Later, Charles Leclerc’s Sauber popped to the top of the timing screens, with a best lap of 1:34.577, where he remained until the end, his teammate Marcus Ericsson was second with Williams rookie Sergey Sirotkin third!

Best of the top guns was Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in fourth place.

Only nine drivers set lap times which in the end are meaningless under the conditions, nevertheless another box ticked by Leclerc, namely topping an official F1 session for the first time in his short career in the top flight.

The controversial issue regarding too few rain tyres is likely to become a hot topic again in the wake of another action-free and mundane session while fans sat patiently in the stands watching virtually nothing for an hour.

This was confirmed when Force India’s Esteban Ocon said while he waited in vain for the rain to seize, “We don’t have enough tyres to go out in this session. For everyone in the midfield it is an opportunity, so let’s hope it stays wet for qualy.”

Renault team chief Cyril Abiteboul explained why he told his team to shut up shot half an hour into proceedings, “There’s no point in running in these conditions.  I’m not sure if qualifying will happen in these conditions, it’s too risky. Hopefully, it will happen, but Carlos reported that it was really, really dangerous in these conditions.”

The ‘strange story’ of the morning was all about Lewis Hamilton’s antics, the Mercedes driver spotted in the paddock, by the Sky TV crew, looking ill at ease and edgy. Late on he did venture out on track to sample the conditions, while his team swatted away reporters’ questions regarding a leg injury the world champion may be carrying.

Report in progress…