Despite the banning of the FRIC Suspension (Front-and-Rear Interconnected Suspension), the Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS team once again saw their two drivers finish first and second in both practice sessions at Hockenheim on Friday. Nico Rosberg topped the opening session from Lewis Hamilton, with the two swapping places for session two.
Hamilton had to play second fiddle to Rosberg in the first practice session but took the fastest time of the session and day in the afternoon. The Briton admitted it was a tricky day for him, as he made a few mistakes while getting used to the updated car following the removal of their FRIC suspension.
“It was a pretty good day today,” admitted Hamilton. “It was quite difficult to find the balance with the track being so hot and it is a tricky circuit to drive in general. The car is a bit different now as everyone made some set-up changes in a different direction to what we’ve had in the past, but it’s still fun to drive.
“As the temperatures were so high, it was difficult for the tyres and we’re going to need to manage that carefully when we get to the race. The weather is beautiful and the heat was a challenge, particularly in the car, but that’s how I like it. We need to analyse as much as we can tonight and drink plenty as it’s going to be hot.”
Team-mate Rosberg posted the fastest time in the morning session, and was only 0.024s adrift in the afternoon. Like Hamilton, he found the day tough as he adjusted to the new settings of the car, and felt the tyres might not last too long if conditions remain the same for the race on Sunday.
“It was a difficult day for us, because we had to work on some of the new settings as the car was running without the FRIC system,” said Rosberg. “But it worked out quite well even in difficult conditions. It was very hot outside and the soft tyres don’t last that long here, so this will be tricky for the race.
“It’s great to be back in Germany. I really hope for a big German support this weekend here. We will aim to put on a great show for them.”
Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Toto Wolff knows the team will need to be at the top of their game this weekend and felt it was a positive start on Friday for both drivers. He is looking for more of the same as the weekend goes on.
“This is a tough circuit in terms of performance and reliability – and the conditions couldn’t be any tougher, with track temperatures up over 50 degrees this afternoon,” said Wolff. “We know that we need to be both quick and reliable this weekend in order to deliver on our potential.
“At first sight, the performance levels looked closer during practice than they were in Silverstone, and both cars ran reliably today on tough conditions. But there is a lot still to do and everybody knows this is a big weekend for us at the home race for Mercedes-Benz. The team has done a great job so far and now we need to carry on in the same way tomorrow and Sunday.”
Executive Director Paddy Lowe described himself as ‘satisfied’ after the team were forced to optimise their car without the FRIC suspension after it was deemed illegal by the FIA. Despite this, they managed to work through their normal programme, and Lowe has happy with the teams’ day.
“One of the big items to focus on today was to get the car optimised to run without FRIC and I’m satisfied we’ve done a pretty good job,” said Lowe. “We ran our normal programme this afternoon, running the prime then the option tyres on low fuel, followed by high fuel long runs on option then prime.
It was important to do the right homework today as Pirelli have brought a very aggressive choice of compounds this weekend, so we needed to dial the car into using the tyres properly, especially in the high temperatures today. The drivers were reasonably happy but we also saw that some management was necessary in order to maintain tyre performance over the long runs.
“I also want to say well done to the team and especially the guys in the garage, who delivered two busy sessions in very demanding conditions without any issues.”