Bottas on top again but Hamilton just 0.047s behind on slower soft tyres; Ferrari three tenths adrift of Mercedes
And ominously for Ferrari and the rest of the field, Mercedes sealed comfortable one-two finishes in both of the weekend’s opening sessions.
Much like in Silverstone’s first practice, Hamilton was within a tenth of Bottas’ benchmark – but encouragingly for the home favourite, his fastest FP2 time was set on soft tyres while his team-mate’s came on the optimum supersofts.
The outright lap record was also smashed by a W08 for the second time of the day, with Bottas’ 1:28.496 four hundredths of a second faster than Hamilton’s best effort.
Ferrari did at least narrow the gap to the Silver Arrows but in truth were still some way off the pace, with Kimi Raikkonen finishing three tenths adrift of Bottas in third while championship leader Sebastian Vettel was another tenth further back.
Hamilton appears to be the man in control heading into Saturday’s crucial qualifying session, as the four-time British GP winner also looked quick on his supersoft lap before making a mistake through the Village corners.
“He’s probably the guy going into tonight who is looking favourite so far,” said Sky F1’s Paul di Resta. “Mercedes certainly look like they’ve got the best package compared to Ferrari.”
Red Bull, after looking like Mercedes’ nearest challengers in the morning session, had to settle for fifth and sixth as Daniel Ricciardo ended up half a second behind team-mate Max Verstappen.
On a chilly day at the iconic Northampton circuit, several drivers caught out by the gusty conditions. Carlos Sainz, Felipe Massa, Jolyon Palmer and Raikkonen were all lucky to avoid contact with the barriers.
“It’s like balancing on a tight rope,” said Sky F1 technical analyst Pat Symonds. “If someone gives you a little nudge, you tumble into the net.”
Nico Hulkenberg was arguably the stand-out driver from the session as he maneuvered his Renault into seventh place, while Fernando Alonso – braced for hefty grid penalties at McLaren – will have been happy with ninth.
Their efforts were all the more impressive given respective team-mates Jolyon Palmer and Stoffel Vandoorne finished in 18th and 16th.