Lewis Hamilton bounced back to top the times ahead of Valtteri Bottas on Friday as Mercedes used the luxury of their domination to perform some experiments on a day of off-track drama at the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix.
The championship leader and six times champion had been second behind his Finnish teammate in the opening morning session at Silverstone, but was fastest in torrid heat and temperatures of 36 degrees in the afternoon.
By then, team boss Toto Wolff’s patience was being stretched as rival teams appeared to gang up against Racing Point, a Mercedes customer team, and give little credit to the German outfit’s claim of being mistreated in commercial negotiations.
“The FIA wanted to come up with a solution that kind of lets everybody live,” said Wolff, referring to the stewards’ verdict upholding Renault’s appeal, challenging the legality and originality of the so-called ‘pink Mercedes’ cars.
Racing Point were docked 15 points and fined 400,000 Euros.
“Now Racing Point is pretty upset,” said Wolff. “They believe they have a strong case and they have lawyers ready to go and appeal.
“On the other side what I see is that there is a group forming, a little revolution in every sense – and they are trying to go after Racing Point because I guess they are upset that they haven’t got the performance that Racing Point have.”
On the track, his ‘black arrows’ team reigned supreme and were one-two in both sessions.
“It’s been a positive day with small adjustments to gain a millisecond here and there,” said Hamilton.
Bottas said there was little to choose between the new softer tires on one lap and the mediums.
Hard time for tires
“Obviously, they don’t last as long and in these temperatures they are having quite a hard time especially on high fuel.”
Behind the two Mercedes men, Daniel Ricciardo was third for Renault, eight-tenths off the pace set by Hamilton’s best lap of one minute and 25.606 seconds, enough to lift him one-tenth clear of Bottas.
The two had traded fastest laps during the session, which ended early with two minutes remaining when Antonio Giovinazzi was left stranded with his Alfa Romeo at Becketts after Sebastian Vettel had suffered an engine failure in his Ferrari at Copse.
The session was red-flagged and not re-started.
Max Verstappen was fourth for Red Bull ahead of the Racing Point pairing of Lance Stroll and Nico Hulkenberg, the Canadian edging ahead of the stand-in German driver, who was replacing coronavirus victim Sergio Perez.
The Mexican had returned a positive result from a Covid-19 test overnight Thursday and missed a second successive race, allowing Hulkenberg to impress again.
Behind them, Charles Leclerc was seventh for Ferrari ahead of Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz of McLaren and Esteban Ocon in the second Renault.
On a hectic day, Wolff also vented his spleen on other issues, notably why on behalf of Mercedes he was not intending to sign a new draft of the sport’s Concorde Agreement for 2021 and beyond.
He said Mercedes felt they were “victims” and had been mistreated in the talks that had not been fair – allowing Ferrari to continue to hold a veto on the sport’s rules and collect extra revenue for their historic standing.