Saturday, July 07, 2012
Hamilton fastest at wet Silverstone
By Alan Baldwin
SILVERSTONE, England (Reuters) - Rain and traffic chaos put a dampener on practice for the British Grand Prix on Friday with McLaren's Lewis Hamilton doing his best to raise the spirits of drenched home fans with the fastest lap of the day.
With fans braving the elements and huddling under umbrellas around the circuit, 2008 world champion Hamilton set the pace with a largely meaningless time of one minute 56.345 seconds after lunch.
"I got to do a good few laps... because I was concerned that the fans wouldn't get to see much action," said Hamilton, who also went for a walk up and down the pit lane to wave at the grandstands while others sheltered in the garages.
Japan's Kamui Kobayashi was second fastest for Sauber with seven times champion Michael Schumacher, a famed 'Rain Master' in his time at Ferrari, third for Mercedes.
Frenchman Romain Grosjean had been fastest for Lotus in the morning session in 1:56.552.
Waterlogged campsites led to monster tailbacks outside the circuit as organisers struggled to get vehicles parked on firm ground with 80,000 spectators expected on one of the wettest days of the summer so far.
Many ticket holders were reported to be still locked in jams outside, with little hope of seeing any of the day's action, even as the second session started.
Despite the delays and frustration, there was no denying the enthusiasm of those who made it in.
The grandstands looked fuller than on race day at some sunnier circuits, even if drivers rewarded them with only tentative laps on the glistening track due to the conditions and needing to save tyres.
"Bit of swimming today only 6 laps in FP1! UK weather is just unreal," declared Marussia's German driver Timo Glock on Twitter after the first session.
Staying on the asphalt was tricky, with the afternoon practice halted for 10 minutes when Brazilian Bruno Senna veered off into the barriers after his Williams hit standing water and aquaplaned.
Senna, who has yet to race at Silverstone in Formula One and had to sit out the morning session while Finnish test driver Valtteri Bottas took his place, was unhurt but the car looked heavily damaged.
Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, the current championship leader, also hit the barriers and damaged his car's front wing after a similar off-track excursion late in the session.
"In the wet, the car seems OK but it's practically impossible to say where we are compared to the others," said the Spaniard.
Toro Rosso's Australian Daniel Ricciardo was second on the morning timing screens ahead of Hamilton.
Hamilton, whose 2008 victory makes him the last British driver to win his home race, completed six laps in the first 90 minute session and eight in the afternoon.
"The conditions are pretty dodgy to say the least," said Red Bull's Australian Mark Webber, who did seven laps in the morning and was sixth fastest. He did not do a timed lap in the afternoon.
"We don't want to do a thousand laps today because the forecast looks pretty dodgy for the weekend and we need these tyres," he said.
Team mate and world champion Sebastian Vettel was 11th and 13th respectively in the two sessions.
(Editing by Alison Wildey and Ken Ferris)