Bottas tops Silverstone practice

SILVERSTONE, United Kingdom: In-form Valtteri Bottas registered a ‘double top’ ahead of Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton to confirm his title credentials in Friday’s opening practice sessions ahead of this weekend’s British Grand Prix.
The Finn, who joined the team as a replacement for retired 2016 world champion Nico Rosberg, emerged as a genuine championship contender when he won last Sunday’s Austrian race.
His current consistency has made him the highest points-scorer over the last four races while Hamilton, who trails championship leader Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari by 20 points, has battled unexpected setbacks and misfortunes.
Bottas clocked a best lap of one minute and 28.496 seconds to outpace Hamilton by 0.047 seconds at the top of the timesheets in the afternoon’s second session, with the Ferraris of Finn Kimi Raikkonen and Vettel third and fourth.
Dutchman Max Verstappen was fifth ahead of his Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, German Nico Hulkenberg of Renault and Felipe Massa of Williams.
“Yes, we had a new engine, but it was quite normal, one of those things,” said Raikkonen. “It’s a fresh one and it’s a little bit better, but nothing major. It was planned… Today was a bit windy, but not too bad. Sometimes a bit tricky, but quite normal for here.”
Verstappen said he was disappointed to see Red Bull trailing Ferrari again. But not surprised.
“Yes we are lagging behind, too slow for sure,” he said. “But we are always running a bit behind in that way with the engines so we have to work harder on the car to find time.”
Two-time champion Fernando Alonso was ninth for McLaren ahead of Frenchman Esteban Ocon of Force India.
Hamilton set his time using ‘soft’ tyres while all his rivals in the top ten clocked their best laps using ‘super-soft’ tyres, a feat that suggests the three-time world champion, who is seeking a record-equalling fifth British win, has plenty of performance in reserve.
The session was run in cool and overcast conditions, presenting a challenge to the teams to work warmth into their front tyres particularly.
In this respect, Mercedes looked to have mastered the challenge while Ferrari, who were running in new engines, appeared to be finding it more difficult. — AFP