Silverstone: Red Bull’s Mark Webber made a flying start to his British Grand Prix weekend on Friday with the fastest lap in Friday’s free practice at a revamped Silverstone.
Back on track less than two weeks after escaping unscathed when his car flew high into the air in a massive crash in Valencia, the rugged Australian laid down a benchmark with a hot lap of one minute 31.234 seconds on a gloriously sunny afternoon.
His German team mate Sebastian Vettel, winner of that previous race in Spain as well as from pole position at Silverstone last year, had been quickest in the morning in 1:32.280.
Webber’s afternoon was clouded however when his car suffered a mechanical problem that kept him in the garage for the final 15 minutes.
While both Red Bull drivers looked at home at Silverstone, and Ferrari picked up from an anonymous morning session to clock the second fastest lap after lunch with Fernando Alonso, McLaren showed no sign of an expected big step forward.
Championship leader leader Lewis Hamilton was second fastest in the morning, 0.334 off Vettel’s pace, but then slipped to eighth while reigning champion Jenson Button was only 13th quickest.
McLaren, their drivers cheered on by an impressively big Friday crowd, were trying out a new ‘blown’ rear diffuser similar to the one pioneered by Red Bull but had warned that it might take time to show results.
“We are hoping we are going to put it (the blown diffuser) on and it will be fine, but we know it will take a little bit of getting used to,” Button had said. “So we are going to have a busy couple of days getting it right.”
Hamilton, with a new helmet design for his home race, is six points clear of Button ahead of a race billed as a battle of the British drivers with McLaren also leading Red Bull in the constructors’ standings.
Brazilian Bruno Senna was an absentee after being dropped by his Hispania (HRT) team for one race in favour of Japanese test driver Sakon Yamamoto, who was by far the slowest on the track in the morning and visibly struggling to hold his neck up.
Italian Vitantonio Liuzzi also sat out the opening session to allow Force India test driver Paul di Resta a stint in the car in front of his home crowd. He was 14th.
Malaysian Fairuz Fauzy completed 11 laps in Italian Jarno Trulli’s Lotus.