MAX Verstappen completed a surprise Friday double for Red Bull at the German GP as he edged out Lewis Hamilton in Practice Two.
The Dutchman’s 1:13.085 was a track record at the Hockenheimring and two hundredths of a second faster than Hamilton in the lead Mercedes, despite hitting traffic on his ultrasoft-tyre lap.
His display was also more evidence of a competitive-again Red Bull after Daniel Ricciardo’s leading time earlier in the day during Practice One.
“To be first in second practice is always very nice but we have to wait to see what’s going to happen tomorrow when they [Mercedes and Ferrari] turn up their engines in qualifying,” said Verstappen.
“At least it’s a positive start for us compared to Silverstone.”
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But it still looks incredible close at the front ahead of a crucial weekend, as while Ricciardo was out of position in 13th as he awaits heavy engine penalties, the top five were split by just three tenths.
Valtteri Bottas was 0.105s off Verstappen’s pace in third while Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen were just behind for championship leaders Ferrari.
As Paul di Resta pointed out about a team who are often ‘sandbagging’ during practice: “I still think that puts Ferrari in the hunt as they are normally a couple of tenths off on a Friday.”
Despite setting the pace, Red Bull were sweating over more technical gremlins as Verstappen missed much of the session after complaining about a downshift — though he did emerge back out on track before the chequered flag.
Verstappen confirmed after the session he had only suffered an oil leak, and with Ricciardo set to start the race at the back of the grid, the last thing Red Bull need are mechanical issues after such an encouraging first day of practice.
It was also another strong session for Ferrari power, with five cars making up the top eight. Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen were ‘best of the rest’ for Haas, as Charles Leclerc impressed again for Sauber in eighth.
Those two teams look set for another Q3 battle in qualifying with Renault and Force India — Nico Hulkenberg, Esteban Ocon, Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz were split by less than a tenth of a second in the midfield.
Williams and McLaren, however, once again have their backs against the wall ahead of a race weekend.
Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin’s finishing positions of 17th and 18th are perhaps to be expected given the Grove team’s struggles this season but McLaren, despite testing new parts, would have wanted more pace from their first day of practice back in Germany.
Fernando Alonso was their lead car in 17th, with Stoffel Vandoorne propping up the timesheets in both of Friday’s sessions.
But with the weather forecast mixed for a critical qualifying day, they, and other teams, will hope for surprise results.
German GP Practice Two Timesheet
Driver — Team — Time
Max Verstappen — Red Bull — 1:13.085
Lewis Hamilton — Mercedes — +0.026
Valtteri Bottas — Mercedes — +0.105
Sebastian Vettel — Ferrari — +0.225
Kimi Raikkonen — Ferrari — +0.342
Romain Grosjean — Haas — +0.888
Kevin Magnussen — Haas — +1.104
Charles Leclerc — Sauber — +1.289
Nico Hulkenberg — Renault — +1.411
Esteban Ocon — Force India — +1.423
Sergio Perez — Force India — +1.467
Carlos Sainz — Renault — +1.507
Daniel Ricciardo — Red Bull — +1.597
Marcus Ericsson — Sauber — +1.698
Pierre Gasly — Toro Rosso — +1.708
Brendon Hartley — Toro Rosso — +1.745
Fernando Alonso — McLaren — +1.751
Lance Stroll — Williams — +2.184
Sergey Sirotkin — Williams — +2.323
Stoffel Vandoorne — McLaren — +2.369