Hockenheim, Germany (AP) — Max Verstappen set a new lap record in leading the second practice for the German Grand Prix on Friday.
“We have a good balance in the car, short and long run (speed),” Verstappen said. “It was a nice surprise to start so competitively. The others will be quicker for qualifying, but certainly a better-than-expected start.”
Verstappen also made it a Red Bull 1-2, after teammate Daniel Ricciardo was best in the first practice before drifting back in the afternoon.
“We seem to be in the ballpark and that’s encouraging,” said Ricciardo, who has won two races this season.
Lewis Hamilton was second quickest in both sessions. His Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas finished third in the second practice, with championship leader Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari in fourth.
After a rocky start to the season, Verstappen has hit a rich vein of form, securing four podium finishes in the past six races.
He briefly had cause for worry ahead of Saturday’s third practice and qualifying.
“What’s going on with the engine?” he said worriedly, before returning to the garage near the end of P2. “I’m hearing a lot of noise.”
Verstappen explained it was a minor oil leak which was soon resolved.
Both sessions were bathed in hot sunshine at the Hockenheimring track in southwest Germany’s Baden-Wuerttemberg region bordering France. The circuit has several fast straights on the 4.6-kilometer (2.8-mile) track, meaning fans can hope for an exciting race.
Ricciardo, however, is unlikely to be on the podium, let alone win. He starts from last on Sunday because of a grid penalty. He incurred it because his team made changes to the hybrid system, the energy store and the electronics unit for a combined total of 20 grid positions.
Still, Ricciardo plans to entertain the crowd with some trademark overtaking moves.
“I prepared myself knowing I would probably take the penalties here, and I’m pretty excited to come through the field,” the Australian driver said. “I’ll find the right perspective. For me it will be satisfying and for everyone watching it should be pretty fun as well.”
Drivers are allowed to use two of each specific engine part during the season before penalties, but this is the third time Ricciardo is using each individual element. His team felt it necessary to make changes here, rather than incur penalties for doing so at the race in Hungary next weekend. Red Bull is expected to compete strongly at the Hungaroring, which is one of F1’s toughest tracks to overtake on.
“We don’t want to take this penalty in Budapest, for sure,” Red Bull technical director Pierre Wache said. “It’s part of the tactical aspect.”
Earlier, Verstappen was third in P1 followed by Vettel, Bottas, and Raikkonen.
In another encouraging performance, Charles Leclerc placed ninth and eighth in his two runs with a considerably slower Sauber car.
Leclerc has greatly impressed in his debut season.
The 20-year-old from Monaco has taken points in five of 10 races, exceeding expectations, with a best finish of sixth at the Azerbaijan GP.
He has driven with such maturity and composure, that he is already being touted to replace Raikkonen at Ferrari next year.