SILVERSTONE, United Kingdom: Carlos Sainz outpaced local hero Lewis Hamilton in Friday's second practice at the British Grand Prix, his Ferrari edging the revived Mercedes by one tenth of a second on a rain and wind-affected day. The Spaniard, recording his first session-topping time since the Australian Grand Prix in April, clocked a best lap in one minute and 28.952 seconds to beat the seven-time world champion, who appeared to have rediscovered his verve, by 0.163 seconds. Another Briton, Lando Norris of McLaren, was third fastest for McLaren, ahead of world champion and series leader Max Verstappen of Red Bull and Charles Leclerc in the second Ferrari.
Fernando Alonso was sixth for Alpine ahead of Sergio Perez in the second Red Bull, George Russell in the other Mercedes, Daniel Ricciardo and Aston Martin's Lance Stroll. For Hamilton, who lost a piece of his car's bodywork in the final minutes, it was a solid demonstration of the potential of his Mercedes.
After an embattled week during which he has rebutted offensive comments from various critics, including revelations of a vulgar attack by Nelson Piquet, this was a classic Hamilton riposte. On a blustery and cool day punctuated by more off-track news and reaction at the former airfield, the Red Bulls led the field out to make up for lost time after the wet opening session had allowed little meaningful running.
Alonso set an early fastest time for Alpine before Sainz and then Leclerc went top. Both Ferraris were running with more new parts for their power units. Verstappen struggled with the conditions and a minor mechanical problem. "It's like something is touching-I don't know what-and it's very windy out here," he said. Hamilton reported the familiar bouncing problem that has blighted his and Mercedes' season but after work on the rear of his car, jumped to second fastest, ahead of Norris and Verstappen, with a lap that generated appreciation from the big Friday crowd.
For Hamilton, the support of his fan base had been important during a trying week of offensive criticism from those critics-including Piquet, Bernie Ecclestone and Jackie Stewart-who he described as "older voices" undeserving of the platform supplied by the media. Advised to retire by Stewart and insulted with a racial slur by Piquet, Hamilton had also acceded to the sport's new enforcement of a 'bling ban' by removing a nose stud.
It emerged on Friday that Piquet had not only used a racist slur, but had also used homophobic language in a further offensive comment during his appearance in a Brazilian podcast last November. Piquet was banned from the Formula One paddock and had his membership of the British Racing Drivers Club suspended on Thursday, when his comments were first reported. New footage of further comments by Piquet was revealed on social media on Friday. This included insulting remarks aimed at Keke and Nico Rosberg and both racist and homophobic slurs against Hamilton.
To add to the public furore, as F1 unified in support of Hamilton, the local Northamptonshire police revealed it had uncovered a plot by protesters seeking to disrupt the race with a track invasion. Chief Inspector Tom Thompson said: "We have credible intelligence that a group are planning to disrupt the event on race day." He added an appeal to the group, warning them their plans were reckless and dangerous and could jeopardize lives. "Protesting is everyone's human right in this country and we are happy to speak to you to help facilitate a peaceful protest." - AFP