By Abhishek Takle
HOCKENHEIM, Germany (Reuters) – Sebastian Vettel was fastest for Ferrari in opening practice for his home German Grand Prix on Friday with team mate Charles Leclerc completing a one-two at the top of the timesheets.
The four times world champion lapped the 4.5km Hockenheim track, located just a half hour’s drive from his boyhood home in Heppenheim, in one minute 14.013 seconds on a sweltering morning.
The German, who crashed out while leading last year’s race and is in danger of being upstaged by the younger Leclerc, was 0.255 faster than the Monegasque.
Championship leader Lewis Hamilton, his Mercedes painted in a special livery to celebrate 125 years of motorsport involvement for the German marque, was third and 0.302 seconds off Vettel’s pace.
The Briton, who leads team-mate Valtteri Bottas by 39 points and has won seven of 10 races so far, has expressed concern that the European heatwave could sap his bid for victory on Sunday.
Track temperatures touched the high 40s with ambient temperatures hovering around the mid-30.
Hamilton’s gap to Vettel appeared, however, to be down more to the 34-year-old setting his fastest lap on the medium tyres compared to the grippy and faster softs used by the German.
The five times champion and Bottas led the timesheets before Ferrari’s late soft tyre push.
Bottas ended the session fifth, sandwiched between the Red Bulls of Max Verstappen in fourth and Pierre Gasly in sixth.
The Finn went off at the same corner Vettel crashed at last year but extricated himself from the gravel without damaging the car.
Carlos Sainz was seventh for McLaren, with Romain Grosjean eighth despite Haas running his car in the same specification it used for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.
Lance Stroll was ninth for Racing Point and Daniel Ricciardo, who survived a minor spin, rounded out the top 10 for Renault.
The session was briefly red-flagged shortly after it got underway with Kevin Magnussen grinding to a halt on track, complaining of a loss of power.
His Haas was towed back to the pits with track action getting underway shortly after.
There were no major incidents other than drivers, including Hamilton and Bottas, running wide as they got to grips with the track.
(Editing by Alan Baldwin/Toby Davis)