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British GP: Hamilton fastest for McLaren at soggy Silverstone


By Berthold Bouman

Lewis Hamilton was fastest for McLaren at a very soggy Silverstone today. The 2008 World Champion lapped the circuit eight times to finally record a best-time of 1m56.345s this afternoon during the second free practice session, which was 0.207s faster than Romain Grosjean who was fastest for Lotus during the first free practice session this morning, the first session was also hampered by heavy rain.

Lewis Hamilton waves at the spectators at Silverstone

Hamilton, who completed in total only 14 timed laps today, six in the morning and eight in the afternoon, commented he enjoyed the wet conditions, “I had some fun out there today! I got to do a good few laps too, which was good, because I was concerned that the fans wouldn’t get to see much action.”

But he did have some reservations about the atrocious conditions on the high-speed Silverstone circuit, “There was a lot of standing water out there, and tons of aquaplaning. That’s to be expected when there’s heavy rain, of course, but I have to say that there doesn’t seem to be that much drainage around the circuit. You’re aquaplaning almost all the time, to be honest, so you need to be very in tune with your senses or you’re very likely to lose control!”

Second fastest in the afternoon was Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi with a time of 1m56.474s, and he was certainly enjoying himself as he clocked a total of 34 laps today. But like Hamilton, he was a bit worried about the conditions as well, “Generally the circuit tends to develop little rivers here and there, and even on the straights you have to be very careful not to lose the car by aquaplaning.”

Third this afternoon was Mercedes driver Michael Schumacher, who also felt good in the rain. “There are still things to be learned on days like these and the positive about today’s rain was that it is also forecast for tomorrow and Sunday. This meant that we were able to use today to prepare for the race, primarily on the wet tyres,” said the German.

Like others, he also complained about too much water on the track, “There was a lot of standing water, but it was hard to spot from the cockpit, which meant that the drivers had to be very vigilant.” His team colleague Nico Rosberg, who was fourth, agreed and said, “The conditions were really quite tricky out there with all the puddles, and it was very difficult to find the right limit.”

Heikki Kovalainen was the hero of the day as he took seventh place this afternoon in the Caterham, albeit 2.225s slower than Hamilton. Many teams were reluctant to send their drivers out on the wet track, worried they would damage the car, but more important, they wanted to save the wet-weather tyres as it is expected it will also rain during qualifying and the race.

As both session were ‘wet’, all drivers were handed an extra set of full wet tyres, which means drivers now have a total of three sets of full wet tyres (blue marked) and five sets of intermediate tyres (green marked) available for the weekend, but one set of intermediates has to be returned tonight.

The full wets are capable of dispersing 60 litres of water per second at full speed. If the race is going to be run in wet conditions, the crossover point between the full wet and intermediate tyres, or between the intermediates and the slicks when the rain stops and the track dries out, will be an important factor in choosing the right strategy on Sunday.

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