Romain Grosjean and Lewis Hamilton may have topped the timesheets in today’s two practices for the FIA Formula One Grand Prix of Great Britain, but it was Kamui Kobayashi who benefitted most, turning a combined total of 35 laps at the rain-soaked Silverstone circuit.
The Sauber driver’s best time was a 1m 56.474s set in Free Practice 2, but his runs were not free of mistakes, and he had several close calls even when simply lapping alone on Pirelli’s Full Wet tires.
With consistently wet weather predicted for Saturday and Sunday in this rainiest English summer on record, though, Kobayashi’s extensive practicing may prove to have been the best use of the Friday.
In FP1, Grosjean’s 1m 56.552s surpassed second-placed Daniel Ricciardo’s best time by 0.275s. He then led local hero Lewis Hamilton by a similar margin. Ricciardo summed up the situation for all who attempted early laps:
“The morning session went quite well, running only on the Extreme tyre and that gave me the confidence in the car in these conditions to feel good about tomorrow. We also did a little bit of set-up work but we did not change much because in these conditions most of the time comes from yourself.”
Due to the miserable weather, few drivers actually set times in the morning session, and even though conditions had technically “improved” by the start of FP2, most of the cars remained covered until the final few minutes.
I was concerned that the fans wouldn’t get to see much action.
When Lewis Hamilton finally did come out for a few laps, he was able to set an overall fastest 1m 56.345s, just ahead of Kobayashi and Michael Schumacher.
“There was a lot of standing water out there, and tons of aquaplaning," Hamilton explained. "That’s to be expected when there’s heavy rain, of course, but I have to say that there doesn’t seem to be that much drainage around the circuit. You’re aquaplaning almost all the time, to be honest, so you need to be very in tune with your senses or you’re very likely to lose control."
Still, despite his troubles with the track surface and eventual success, the patriotic Brit seemed more concerned for his favorite fans.
"I was concerned that the fans wouldn’t get to see much action. There were so many of them out there today. I can’t remember seeing so many people at a racetrack on a Friday before – it was incredible. British Formula 1 fans are the best in the world!"
Bruno Senna suffered yet another practice crash in the curvy Becketts area, sliding across the track and straight on into the nearest wall, damaging most of the front end and shedding a wheel. It was his first time out in a Formula One car at Silverstone, having lent his Williams to reserve Valtteri Bottas in the morning.
The only other major accident came just after the second checkered flag of the day when Fernando Alonso lost control his Ferrari on the way to pit entry, smashing the front wing off.
At the time, he was one of the few drivers trying out Pirelli’s Intermediate compound in the conditions. Almost all who dared to attempt the grooved slicks had minor slips and offs.
With such little significant running today, not many conclusions can be drawn pre-qualifying. When all 24 drivers hit the track tomorrow, though, the fastest will be seen.
Hamilton certainly has the wet-weather skill and home determination to fight for pole and the win, but Alonso has the momentum of a first repeat win of 2012 at Valencia last month and the Red Bulls always run well here, too. Meanwhile, the Dark Knight-sponsored dark horses at Lotus-Renault are searching for a likely first win, and torrential rain may be exactly what Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen need to find it.