Rosberg excels in dry to top second practice

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Nico Rosberg has finished quickest in the second free practice session for the British Grand Prix at Silverstone as the drivers had their first chance to complete some dry running on Friday afternoon.

Although the rain had stopped falling by the beginning of FP2, the drivers were still unsure of the track conditions and opted to venture out on intermediate tires at the beginning of the session, with the Red Bulls leading the way. Defending world champion and former British GP winner Sebastian Vettel posted the first time of 1:44.038, but he was not to remain quickest for long as the track began to dry out. Jenson Button told his engineer that “the circuit is pretty dry,”, whilst Nico Hulkenberg suggested that Sauber try slicks. Before long, the entire field had put on a set of hard tires with Adrian Sutil sitting P1 after 20 minutes of the session.

Felipe Massa’s session came to an early end following a spectacular slide on the exit of the Hangar Straight, before his Ferrari F138 eventually nosedived into the wall close to pit entry. Luckily, he was perfectly fine, although the same could not be said about his car. At the front, Force India tamed the conditions well, even if Sutil did push too hard through Maggots and Becketts on more than one occasion, just about keeping it on track every time.

The majority of the runners soon switched to the softer compound in order to evaluate the medium tire, benefitting Vettel and Rosberg as they hit the front, and it soon became a question of beating the weather after Valtteri Bottas received a message to expect rain before the end of the session. Lewis Hamilton also joined the front runners, meaning that Mercedes, Red Bull, Force India and Toro Rosso had locked out the top eight places with half an hour to go, with Jean-Eric Vergne gesturing to a slow-moving Sergio Perez after his lap was compromised whilst Nico Rosberg went fastest with a lap of 1:32.248.

Once their medium runs had been completed, most of the field switched back to hard tires and high fuel in an attempt to prepare for the race on Sunday before experimenting with the medium tire once again. Despite the rain holding off, no driver could better their previous times, meaning that Rosberg finished fastest ahead of Webber and Vettel, with British fans also catered for in P4 and P5 by Paul di Resta and Lewis Hamilton.

Ferrari, Mercedes launch 2018 F1 cars

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The title combatants from the 2017 FIA Formula 1 World Championship season both launched their 2018 challengers earlier on Thursday, with Scuderia Ferrari revealing the SF71H and Mercedes AMG Petronas revealing the W09.

For Ferrari, the SF71H represents an evolution of last year’s SF70H, which helped produce Ferrari’s best season in several years.

They presented a strong challenge to Mercedes for the championship, even leading the way at various points, with Sebastian Vettel recording five wins along the way. But, mechanical failures and crashes hampered their efforts late in the season, and they settled for second in the driver’s championship (with Vettel) and the constructor’s championship.

Entering 2018, the team is emphasizing the importance of building momentum with every race to ultimately secure their first constructor’s crown since 2008 and their first driver’s crown since 2007.

“There are no challenges actually. There are no challenges in the plural. There is just one challenge, which is the final challenge,” asserted team principal Maurizio Arrivabene. So that’s work that you build and you don’t build that work in one or two races. We’ve seen over the last few years, in the last championships, that you work race by race, and you always try to do the best you can.”

Technical director Mattia Binotto detailed some of the updates on the 2018 car, such as an new power unit and new suspension designs in anticipation of new tire constructions.

“We worked a lot on the power unit, we worked on its reliability and performance. We worked on the packaging, on suspensions in the rear axle because there will be new tires the following season, so we also tried to design the car to accommodate the new tires,” he explained.

Binotto added, “In regards to aerodynamics, we maintained our concept of having the inlets on the radiators, and everybody’s copying that, but we tried to make an additional step forward and what we showed today is not the same element of last year, but it is something more developed.”

Mercedes, meanwhile, will look to take it’s fifth consecutive driver’s and constructor’s championships with the W09. The team even took the car to the track for its launch, conducting a filming day at Silverstone Circuit.

“It is always a very exciting time because what has been designed is coming together and coming alive,”  team principal Toto Wolff said during the launch.

Despite facing challenges with last year’s car, the W08, the team elected to follow a similar design concept with the aerodynamics to improve on the car’s strengths while simultaneously addressing its weak points.

“We like some of the character traits from our diva,” Wolf quipped. “The W08 was the fastest car on the grid, scoring the highest number of pole positions and winning the most races last year. So we were careful not to lose the car’s many strengths just to overcome the difficulties.”

Both Ferrari and Mercedes are expected to slug it out again for the 2018 driver’s and constructor’s championships.

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