Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen each set a fastest time in Hockenheim, sealing Red Bull’s first Friday practice double since the Monaco GP – where they then dominated qualifying and won the race.
Beating Mercedes and Ferrari in qualifying here will be a much tougher prospect, but Red Bull are at least much closer to the fight for pole than they have been in recent weeks.
“To be first in second practice is always very nice but we have to wait to see what’s going to happen tomorrow when they turn up their engines in qualifying,” said Verstappen, who topped the second session with a track record.
“But at least it’s a positive start for us compared to Silverstone.”
An optimistic Dutchman continued to Sky F1: “They should normally [be ahead].
“But we can still improve, my lap was a bit compromised. So I hope tomorrow we can be close.”
Lewis Hamilton was edged out by a Red Bull by less than a tenth of a second in both sessions and while Mercedes appeared faster than direct championship rivals Ferrari, he believes there will be a serious three-way battle this weekend.
“The car was feeling good, but it is very close, so there’s lots of work to do tonight,” claimed Hamilton.
“Both Ferrari and Red Bull were very quick today and I think it will be very similar tomorrow and on Sunday. It’s going to be a serious challenge and it’s not an easy track to get right, so we will have to give it everything.”
Championship leader Sebastian Vettel echoed the Englishman’s thoughts, adding: “I haven’t seen much of Red Bull in the long runs but over one lap I think it definitely is [a three-team fight], it seems to be very close.
“It will be crucial to have a solid day tomorrow and a good result so that’s what we try to do.”
Why are Red Bull so quick in Germany?
When Ricciardo’s grid penalties were confirmed for Hockenheim, it seemed Red Bull were therefore making it clear that they weren’t expecting a hugely competitive weekend.
Having been almost a second off their rivals at this stage in Silverstone, that seemed sensible.
But now even Ricciardo is excited for a race of overtaking in an improved RB14, claiming: “I’m actually pretty excited to come through the back and have a bit of fun. The race pace seems pretty decent, the car feels strong.”
Ricciardo will now have fresh components for a Hungary track which should suit their package even more, but Christian Horner believes Red Bull will be in the hunt this weekend – and offered some reasons why.
“Hungary represents a good chance but I think in race mode here as well we should be as competitive as we were in Austria,” team boss Horner told Sky F1, alluding to a race Verstappen won.
“Sector two is really the power element of the track so that’s our weakest sector but in sector one we’re really fast through Turn One, which carries the speed down to Turn Two, and it’s a relatively short straight.
“In the last sector through the stadium we’re competitive as well. We’re probably giving away three tenths in the middle sector – less than Silverstone, it’s not as power-sensitive here – but we’re trying to make that up in other areas.”
Where are Mercedes and Ferrari?
While Ferrari’s ‘sandbagging’ during the opening day of practice is to be expected, it’s not often Mercedes are out-placed on a Friday.
Hamilton was happy with his setup, but team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who has also just penned a new contract, said: “We haven’t quite got the balance perfect yet.”
Vettel was also looking for more performance from his Ferrari, especially over one lap as he prepares for a crucial qualifying, which is live and exclusive on Sky Sports F1 at 2pm.
“I think we’re still missing a bit from one-lap performance, I think we can improve,” the German home favourite stated.
“I wasn’t entirely happy with the lap I had on ultrasoft, but the car is fine and I think we can still gain a bit.”
Can Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes bounce back at the German GP? Watch live on Sky Sports F1 this weekend. Sky Sports F1 is the only place to watch every Formula 1 Grand Prix, qualifying and practice session live in 2018. Get Sky Sports F1.