After the news broke out that the FIA race director Charlie Whiting is looking to ban the FRIC suspension system, Mercedes downplayed its significance, with Lewis Hamilton saying the car felt the same without the system at the Silverstone in-season test. Come Friday of the German Grand Prix, things look slightly different with both the drivers admitting that some work needs to be done to adjust the car without the passive suspension system.
“It felt different a little bit than usual of course,” Rosberg said . “So we have to work around it a little bit and adapt, but in the end it feels OK. For sure it will shuffle things around a little bit, without this FRIC system, and we’ve got some new challenges to rebalance the car and get happy in the car. Today was good progress, I was very unhappy this morning and then tried some different things, and it worked out. It looked pretty close out there, but on Friday you never know what people are doing with fuel and things like that. Let’s just wait and see for tomorrow and Sunday.”
While both Mercedes drivers were still the fastest in practice - on both long runs and qualifying simulations - their gap was down to a few tenths from nearly a second at Silverstone(refer image). It was expected that the loss of FRIC suspension will cost a team between two tenths and half a second. Hence, it’s impossible to believe that Mercedes have suffered so much because of the absence of this system, considering some of their main rivals also had a pretty sophisticated ones on their cars. This means that either Mercedes is sandbagging(as we’ve seen plenty of times this year), or they are simply taking time to recalibrate the car without this system. Either way, they are still likely to cross the chequered flag in first and second positions, albeit with a lot smaller gap to the third placed car.
Daniel Ricciardo finished within a tenth of Hamilton’s P2 benchmark and maintained a similar gap to the Mercs in the long runs. Sebastian Vettel, in contrast, was eight tenths slower than his Australian teammate on a single lap and half a slower during the longs runs on soft tyres. However, his average time on the faster supersoft tyre was slightly faster.
As predicted by us, Force India turned out to be biggest gainers from the ban on FRIC suspension, if long runs on Friday are anything to go by. FRIC suspension, which helps in maintaining constant ride height, and hence more equitable load on four tyres, reduces the tyre wear. Force India, despite not using this system on a consistent basis was still the best in tyre management, and their relative advantage in this respect is likely to increase after the ban.
Further back, Kimi Raikkonen surprisingly set the fourth fastest time in FP2 after an earlier hiccup in FP1 detained him to the garage for a considerable time. In the longs run too, he had the edge over Fernando Alonso.
"In the afternoon, we made up for lost time and managed to improve on all fronts,'' Raikkonen said. "Overall, it’s been a reasonably positive day, but it’s still to early to make any predictions. We will have to wait until tomorrow to know more.”
One can expect a less than stellar performance from Williams this weekend after back-to-back podiums in Austria and Britain. The Grove based squad was unusually slow in the long runs but appeared to be a lot faster on a single lap.
"The track was very hot today which affected the tyres a lot," Bottas said after the end of second practice. "It wasn't easy on the supersoft on the long runs and that's a point we have highlighted needs more work. It has been interesting to work on the mechanical changes we have made in the suspension, and that has given a lot of data to analyse."
For the final thought, weather is likely to play a major role in the race. High temperatures on a sunny track made matters difficult for teams today, especially because Pirelli have brought two of their softest compounds at Hockenheim. However, there is a slight chance of rain on Sunday which could spice things up for everyone.