2013 German GP Practice One: Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton heads Nico Rosberg
Silver Arrows set early pace as Alonso struggles; no tyre concerns
By Mike Wise at the Nurburgring. Last Updated: 05/07/13 1:01pm
Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton headed team-mate Nico Rosberg in opening practice for the German Grand Prix on Friday morning.
Hamilton lapped the 5.148km Nurburgring track in a time of 1:31.754s to go 0.219s faster than his team-mate. The 90-minute session is the first of the weekend that will be held under threat of a boycott by drivers belonging to the GPDA but it passed without any hint of the tyre failures seen at last weekend's British Grand Prix.
The only major problem befell Fernando Alonso, who completed only one lap before pulling off with an apparent electrical problem. His Ferrari returned to complete another lap but was soon back in the garage and the Spaniard was out of the car with about 20 minutes still to run.
Red Bull's Mark Webber was third fastest ahead of Force India's Adrian Sutil and Lotus's Kimi Raikkonen. The top ten was completed by Felipe Massa (Ferrari), Jenson Button (McLaren), Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull), Romain Grosjean (Lotus) and Sergio Perez (McLaren).
The layout of the Nurburgring does not place tyres under the stresses in the way Silverstone does but the FIA and Pirelli are clearly taking no chances this weekend.
They had already announced a new rear tyre, one featuring a Kevlar belt and which was tested briefly in Canada last month.
A note was also sent to teams from the governing body's Race Director, Charlie Whiting, prior to the session which enforced the recommendations the tyre company had already stipulated.
As such, they have been ordered not to run cars below minimum tyre pressures, while camber angles were also limited front and rear.
Furthermore, the practice of rear-tyre swapping, which teams employ to eke out both performance and longevity, has also been clamped down upon.
There is a feeling that the strong words used by the GPDA on Thursday evening is a sign that drivers are asserting themselves on a subject - safety - in which they have a particularly vested interest.
Speaking after the session, Sky Sports F1's Martin Brundle was confident there wouldn't be a repeat but added that the new tyres would receive more of a workout during the afternoon.
"No problems with the tyres, which is frankly no surprise at all. It's a different track layout, they are controlling the cambers, they are controlling the pressures, they say they have changed the construction. There's no surprise there at all," he said.
"They haven't been on full tanks yet when the tyres are really loaded but there are no fast corners here like you get at Copse or Becketts where you are pulling 4.5-5G and with your rear tyres on the rumble strips with your foot flat on the throttle with maximum torque going through your tyre.
"They just don't exist here."
Given the lack of running on the new tyre in Canada, there is also interest in whether the new tyre might change the order in the pack.
It was developed by Pirelli to try and fix the delamination problems seen earlier in the season but three teams - Lotus, Ferrari and Force India - vetoed its proposed introduction at Silverstone thinking they might lose competitive advantage.
For now, the issue of whether or not teams lose or gain a tenth runs a distant second to safety but most suspect things will change little.
Scant evidence, perhaps, but that much was confirmed in P1 with Mercedes picking up where they left off at Silverstone. The other thing about their performance to note, was that the Brackley team tried their own version of the passive-DRS system on Rosberg's car during the session
"That was a fairly standard session really wasn't it?" Brundle added. "No surprises in there apart from Alonso's problem. But I have to say the Mercs look mighty up front. The real telling point was Rosberg still pumping in a green sector towards the end of the session on one set of tyres."