Lewis Hamilton stresses importance of tyre management as he eyes pole position
Mercedes driver fractionally faster than Nico Rosberg in Practice Two and just one tenth clear of Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo; Rosberg refers to "my dear team-mate" after pit-stop mix-up
By Pete Gill and Mike Wise at Hockenheim
Last Updated: 18/07/14 4:45pm
Lewis Hamilton believes tyre management could be decisive on what promises to be one of the most closely-fought - and hottest - race weekends of the season so far.
Although Mercedes appear to have maintained their supremacy over the rest of the field following the effective outlawing of FRIC suspension systems, the small print of Friday’s practice sessions in scorching conditions provided beguiling evidence that their advantage has been significantly trimmed by the mid-season meddling.
With Hamilton marginally faster than Silver Arrows team-mate Nico Rosberg in the afternoon running, reversing their positions in the morning, the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo was scarcely one-tenth adrift of the two Mercedes cars.
Appearances can be deceptive, particularly on a Friday and especially around the sort of twisty circuit which suits the Red Bull car, but all the signs so far are that the FRIC ‘ban’ has benefited the World Champions at the expense of the World Championship leaders.
"I don't feel so bad, it was a pretty good session,” Hamilton reflected on a day which recorded the highest track temperatures of the season so far. “There’s lots to learn - the temperature is so high that it's very difficult for the tyres and this will probably be one of the hardest races to manage the tyres."
After closing the gap to Nico Rosberg in the Drivers' Championship to just four points with victory in the British GP, Hamilton has vowed to change his approach to qualifying after enduring troubled Saturdays at Silverstone, Canada, Austraia and, albeit through no fault of his own, Monaco. Not since the Spanish GP in early May has Hamilton started a race from pole position. It's a run he is determined to arrest.
"Pole is important everywhere we go," the newly-reinstalled World Championship favourite added. "There's a long run down to Turn Six so there are, perhaps, opportunities if you are second, but it does make it easier if you are on pole."
But it wasn't only on the track that the temperature rose. Bubbling beneath the surface, the tension between Hamilton and Rosberg which has threatened to boil over throughout 2014 continues to simmer. Similes abounded as smoke wafted from the front of Rosberg's overheating car as he waited behind Hamilton's W05 in the pits following an unscheduled stop for the Englishman. Not, you'll note, that Nico is in any mood to refer to Lewis by name.
"My dear team-mate decided to box without any warning so that put us all into a bit of a mess," said Rosberg. "It’s not for me to discuss that and anyway it didn’t hamper my programme, it was just a bit of a longer wait and that’s it."
Watch the 2014 German GP live only on Sky Sports F1. Extensive coverage from Hockenheim continues with Qualifying from 12 noon on Saturday.