Practice One: McLaren 1-2, but...
Button heads Hamilton in first practice in Germany
Last Updated: 20/07/12 12:31pm
So far so good, it seems, for the upgraded McLaren with Jenson Button leading the team's 1-2 in Practice One for the German GP, but it was Kimi Raikkonen's Lotus which was the centre of attention on Friday morning at Hockenheim.
While all eyes had initially been on the changes being introduced to the underperforming MP4-27 - which include revised sidepods and radiator ducts - it soon transpired that, visually at least, Lotus had unveiled the most eye-catching revisions to their car with the sprouting of two large ducts either side of the rollhoop on Kimi Raikkonen's E20.
With the air openings appearing to be too large for pure engine cooling purposes, Sky Sports F1's Ted Kravitz unearthed the further appearance of a tubular new winglet on the top of the rear crash structure where the additional air was being channelled too - leading to suggestions already of a so-called 'Super DRS' system.
The new parts only ran on Raikkonen's car, with Romain Grosjean's E20 not equipped with the new vents, and while the Finn only completed 14 laps and finished two seconds off the McLarens in 15th place, Lotus were undoubtedly focusing on getting the concept functioning rather than chasing lap time.
But while unveiling nothing particularly spectacular in comparison, McLaren can nonetheless be pleased to have locked out the top of the timesheet at this early stage of the German GP weekend, with Button's 1:16.595s lap around half a second up on Hamilton's best.
The 2009 World Champion, who has performed well at Hockenheim in the past and is in desperate need of a strong result to save his season, set his impressive time in the session's first 20 minutes during a run on the medium rubber before the session began to be disrupted by intermittent light rain.
Over the remainder of the 90-minute session drivers were twice forced to take sanctuary in the pits to avoid the wet and the overall affect was to skew the timesheet, with drivers only beginning to get within a second of Button's early time in the closing stages when the rain disappeared.
Hamilton, winner at Hockenheim in 2008, ultimately got closest in a time of 1:17.093 ahead of World Championship leader Fernando Alonso, German legend Michael Schumacher in the Mercedes and the Sauber of Sergio Perez.
The rest of the field, led by German duo Nico Hulkenberg (Force India) and Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) were over a second adrift of the lead McLaren, including Red Bull who made their usual low-key start to the weekend in 12th and 20th places as they tried out the latest tweaks off the production line to their pacesetting RB8.
Numerous drivers had brief off-track moments, with the entry to the Stadium section proving particularly problematic. Williams' Friday driver Valtteri Bottas ended up in the tyres at the banked Turn 13 during the closing moments after locking up the rear of his FW34.
The team now have several hours of repairs on their hands to get regular driver Bruno Senna out in time for the second session.