Home favourite Sebastian Vettel led a Ferrari one-two at the top of the timesheet in first practice for the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim.
Second place Charles Leclerc was less than 0.05 seconds clear of championship leader Lewis Hamilton who narrowly edged Max Verstappen.
Hamilton and Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas set the pace early on in the 90-minute session, debuting the team’s white and silver special edition livery to celebrate Mercedes’ 125th anniversary in motorsport.
Bottas led Hamilton by 0.048s at the halfway mark, before Hamilton vaulted ahead with his first run on medium compound after the mid-session pause. Both drivers lost time in the final sector by dipping their left-side tyres in the gravel at the final corner.
Ferrari’s major improvements arrived later, with Leclerc pinching top spot away from Hamilton. Despite losing time with traffic in the last sector, Leclerc posted a 1m14.268s benchmark on the red marked soft tyre.
Vettel then recorded a session best sector one split and made up significant time with a clean third sector to launch his Ferrari into first place with an unassailable 1m14.013s.
Bottas in fifth place narrowly avoided the barriers after bouncing across the gravel trap in the final minutes. He locked his left-front tyre after turning into the Sachs Curve, sending his Silver Arrow into an excursion before managing to drive out of the gravel.
Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly ended up sixth, posting his first fast lap of the session late on. Gasly was nearly half a second adrift of his fourth-placed team-mate Verstappen.
Carlos Sainz Jr was best of the rest for McLaren in seventh ahead of Romain Grosjean for Haas.
Grosjean’s team-mate Kevin Magnussen triggered the only red flag of the session after 20 minutes, when he stopped his car in the third sector after a engine sensor issue raised alarm for the health of his Ferrari powerunit. He was towed back to the pits and returned to the track after the sensor was reset.
Racing Point’s Lance Stroll was ninth, beating Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo in 10th who suffered a 360 degree spin at Turn 1 in the final moments of the session.
Sergio Perez was 11th in the second Racing Point, while Lando Norris was 12th for McLaren and Magnussen ended up 13th.
The Toro Rosso pairing of Daniil Kvyat and Alexander Albon – who trialled a new halo at the start of the session – finished 14th and 15th.
Nico Hulkenberg in 16th edged the Alfa Romeo duo of Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi.
Williams has brought a significant aerodynamic upgrade package to Hockenheim in a bid to correct the issues which have plagued the team’s pace this season.
Robert Kubica used the new parts while George Russell tested with the old-spec. With Kubica ending up nearly half a second clear and only two-tenths slower than Giovinazzi, initial signs are positive regarding the performance of the upgrades.