|© AP Photo/Martin Meissner
Pirelli’s decision to change tyres for the German Grand Prix weekend could be playing into the hands of Mercedes after the team set the two fastest times in the first practice session on Friday.
Held amid concerns about tyre blow outs and a threat of a boycott, the session also witnessed what could be the beginning of the end of Fernando Alonso’s charge in the title hunt.
Lewis Hamilton’s time of 1 minute 31.754 seconds around the Nurburgring was two-tenths quicker than teammate Nico Rosberg’s lap with the British driver more than a second faster than Mark Webber in third.
Not only is Red Bull’s lead in the constructors’ championship now in danger but Alonso’s battle in the drivers’ crown could weaken after the Spaniard lost valuable track time.
The Ferrari driver missed the 90-minute session after he encountered a suspected electrical problem in his car during his installation lap. He returned to the pits to have the problem rectified and rejoined the circuit about half an hour later.
“I have the same problem,” Alonso reported over the radio before he completed that lap. “What do I do? What do I do?”
The Ferrari driver then returned to the pits for further remedies but was unable to head out again. He was the only driver not to have set a time.
Teammate Felipe Massa, meanwhile, struggled with his tyres and could do no better than sixth just ahead of Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen, who has slowly fallen further away from the leader in the standings.
Adrian Sutil, one of the four Germans taking part in their home race, was fourth in his Force India, continuing his form from the preceding British GP while the quickest McLaren driver, Jenson Button, was in seventh
Force India and McLaren are currently battling for fifth place in the constructors’ championship.
Defending champion Sebastian Vettel has never won his home race and in the month of July. He also hasn’t won a race in Europe in 22 months and that statistic could remain after he was found nearly 1.5 seconds off the leading pace in eighth.
Romain Grosjean and Sergio Perez rounded up the top ten in a session on a dry track and with spring-like temperatures.
Rodolfo Gonzalez, who replaced Jules Bianchi for the session at Marussia, was the slowest driver, nearly six seconds slower than the top time.