Hamilton on front foot while Nico sweats on gearbox
Lewis Hamilton has retaken the initiative during Saturday morning practice to easily record the fastest time of the session ahead of qualifying later today.
Hamilton’s time — a 1 minute 32.917 seconds — was five tenths of a second faster than that of his teammate, and more than 0.7 seconds clear of the rest of the field.
It was a one-way fight, however, with Nico Rosberg forced out of his car with a gearbox oil leak just 40 minutes and 10 laps in to the hour-long session.
Rosberg’s mechanics were able to fix the car — the leak was found to be more minor than the hydraulic problem that afflicted his car during free practice on yesterday — but he had time for only one quick lap on the medium compound tyre.
Technical problems aside and with Hamilton’s Friday balance problems cured, both Mercedes’ single-lap pace and long-run modelling advantages look aminous.
Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen, who eased his way to the third quickest slot almost three-tenths of a second faster than teammate Sebastian Vettel, logged the best time of the rest.
That dynamic has persisted for the entire weekend thus far, with Räikkönen appearing to have the upper hand over Vettel around the Silverstone Circuit.
Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz continued to give credence to their claims that the Toro Rosso chassis is second best only to that of Mercedes with the fifth and sixth fastest times of the morning, just two tenths of a second slower than Vettel’s best effort
Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas typically began showing signs of life in the Williams team, though seemed unable to extract the maximum performance from the softer tyres compared to the rest of the field.
Valtteri Bottas in particular improved by only half a second when he switch from the hard to the soft compound despite Pirelli’s expectation of the difference being closer to the one second mark.
Daniil Kvyat was the quickest Red Bull Racing entry and ninth quickest of the session, separated from teammate Daniel Ricciardo in P12 by three tenths of a second, into which Pastor Maldonado and Nico Hülkenberg slotted their cars for the tenth and eleventh quickest times.
Ricciardo in particular was disappointed with the balance of his car, despite sounding optimistic over a number of upgrades the tam bough to the RB11 chassis this weekend.
Red Bull’s expectations were for approximately fifth on the grid — in other words, behind the Ferraris — but the car’s pace seems sufficiently covered by both Williams and Toro Rosso.
Sergio Perez could only manage thirteenth fastest, ahead of Romain Grosjean, who suffered such bad oversteer that he assumed that something in the rear of the car was broken, despite his team’s insistence otherwise.
Felipe Nasr got ahead of Jenson Button in fifteenth and sixteenth, while Marcus Ericsson suffered from a host of electrical problems on his way to P17.
Fernando Alonso had his session ended early by an unspecified leak, meaning his time was good enough only for P18, ahead of Marussia duo Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi.