July 5th, 2013 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - Mercedes are looking strong in the early stages of the German Grand Prix weekend, after Lewis Hamilton set the pace in the first Free Practice session, ahead of the other Silver Arrow of Nico Rosberg. Third in the session was the Red Bull of Mark Webber, who was just over a second off Hamilton's pace.
This session saw the appearance of Pirelli's modified rear tyres. The steel belt that had previously been used in the tyre construction has been replaced by a kevlar belt, designed to prevent the failures that were seen in last weekend's British Grand Prix.
The change in construction will affect the behaviour of the tyres, including how they warm up, and it is not yet clear who stands to benefit or lose as a result of the modifications. It was, however, imperative that all teams get as much running on the new tyres as possible in order to start understanding their characteristics ahead of tomorrow's qualfiying and Sunday's race.
The only driver who did not manage to spend much time on the new tyres was Fernando Alonso. His Ferrari coasted to a halt on his first lap of the session. The team later reported that it was an issue with the car's electronics.
As the failure happened so early in the session, there was enough time for Alonso's car to be recovered to the pits and he later returned to the track. But the same issue struck again on his out-lap, and although he managed to get the car back to the pits, the Spaniard spent the rest of the session in the Ferrari garage while the team examined the car.
Lotus ran their passive drag-reduction device on Romain Grosjean's car in FP1, after successfullly running the device on Kimi Raikkonen's car at the British Grand Prix. It is unlikely that it will be used in the race, as the benefit at the Nurburgring would not be significant.
However, Friday practice sessions are the only testing time the teams have, and so any running of development parts in FP1 is beneficial. Mercedes were running a similar device on Nico Rosberg's car during his installation lap, but removed it immediately when he returned to the pits and did not run it again in the session.
Although the team celebrated the milestone last weekend at Silverstone, this weekend marks the Williams team's actual 600th race in Formula One.
The weekend has not started well for the famous British team, however, with Maldonado and Bottas setting the 15th and 16th fastest times in FP1 respectively, both over two full seconds off the pace. The cars are displaying "600" on the sidepods in celebration of their achievement, but are not expecting to celebrate the weekend with a particularly strong result.
Full results from FP1:
|3||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:32.789||1.035||22|
|4||15||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||1:32.822||1.068||16|
|8||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:33.213||1.459||20|
|11||14||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1:33.493||1.739||18|
|20||21||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham-Renault||1:36.078||4.324||23|
|22||3||Fernando Alonso||Ferrari||No time||2|