The second Free Practice Session of the 2019 British GP began with a promise that rain would not affect the session the way it did earlier in the day. To the delight of the smiling crowd, that was indeed the case. So, who was to be the driver smiling at the close of FP2? Certainly no one expected Pierre Gasly to be quickest in FP1 for Aston Martin Red Bull Racing. Maybe the ‘control-alt-delete reset’ suggested by Christian Horner for the promising Frenchman would bring success this weekend…he certainly is owed some luck. However, another driver keen for a change of fortune was Valtteri Bottas and this was without doubt his session.
FP1 was remembered for the fact that the recently re-laid surface caught out one or two of the drivers seeing how George Russell, Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris all had off road adventures earlier in the day. In the second session, it wasn’t long before another driver turned their 2019 F1 challenger into a rally cross car, seeing how Alex Albon went off at the end of The Wellington Straight with the session less than 15 minutes old and this would be the trend for many drivers throughout the session.
Also, in the early stages, the cross winds were not pleasing the drivers but the pace was pleasing the fans with the increasingly impressive Lando Norris momentarily leading the pack with a 1:28.331 in his McLaren before ‘the big boys’ headed out on track at the 20-minute mark. The first tussle of the session was between the teammates from Mercedes and in front of the home crowd…Lewis Hamilton went off track. Therefore, first blood went to Valtteri Bottas with a 1:27.031. The times were getting quicker, the track was dry and the crowd was thrilled and waiting to see what Scuderia Ferrari would produce.
Unfortunately, Charles Leclerc was not out on track but back in the garage due to a problem with his front left tyre. Meanwhile, Bottas blitzed the field with a dazzling 1:26.781 – the fastest time of the day…so far. With Ferrari not yet providing much threat, all eyes were on Aston Martin Red Bull Racing and in no time Max Verstappen was in second with his teammate Gasly (the star of FP1) just behind in third. Bottas was not worried though. Meanwhile, down at Becketts (turn 10) a steady procession of cars were taking to the run off area and in doing so kicking up handfuls of dust into the crowd for many a fan to wear as an unexpected souvenir.
At the front of the pack, Bottas’ W10, now wearing a set of softs, had an off in sector two and did not improve whilst Hamilton finally found some speed to take second a mere two hundredths of a second behind. Charles Leclerc enjoyed finally being back out on track and took third knowing that he would need to find over a tenth of a second to challenge Mercedes. While Hamilton had another off, Bottas did find more speed and set the fastest time of the day - 1:26.732. Sebastian Vettel was not in the hunt, the four-time champion was not in the reckoning at this stage and the Scuderia Ferrari talisman would not have been happy.
With less than half an hour to go the top 5 was ‘BOT, HAM, LEC, VET, GAS and as is the trend with FP2 at this stage, race simulations were applied and with it was the thought the drama would cease. That was until with 15 minutes to go, Daniel Ricciardo’s Renault completely cut out bringing his RS19 to a stop at turn 14 baffling fans and pundits alike and the VSC into play, even when that ended – the drama already had.
As the session concluded we wondered: will tyre degradation continue at such an amount this weekend; what was George Russell arguing with an FIA official about and why did Ricciardo’s RS19 cut out?
These are stories for another day because today’s headlines belong to a resurgent Valtteri Bottas!