Sebastian Vettel led a Ferrari one-two in the opening practice session for the German Grand Prix as the top three teams began the weekend closely matched.
The home favorite was a quarter of a second clear at the top of the standings in extremely hot conditions, posting a 1m14.013s as temperatures reached 95F in the opening session. Charles Leclerc backed up his teammate with a 1m14.268s to finish second, although Ferrari used the soft compound tire compared to Mercedes on mediums.
Lewis Hamilton was 0.302s off the pace in third, just edging ahead of Max Verstappen — also on soft tires — by 0.015s. Both Mercedes drivers ran dangerously wide at the final corner early on, dipping a wheel in the gravel, but then Valtteri Bottas had a bigger off-track moment late in the session.
The Finn made the same mistake as Vettel did when leading the race at Hockenheim a year ago, locking up at the Sachskurve and understeering into the gravel. Bottas had got further around the corner by the time he went off, however, and missed the barrier as he was able to stop the car and then crawl back out, pouring gravel onto the track as he went.
At the same time as Bottas had his off, Daniel Riccardo had a spectacular spin at Turn 1, swapping ends at high speed but recovering through the run-off area without damage.
Ricciardo ended up 10th overall, splitting the two Racing Point cars that showed encouraging pace while testing an aerodynamic upgrade. Lance Stroll was ninth and both drivers used the medium tire to set their best laps, with Stroll 1.1s off the overall pace.
Ahead of Stroll were Carlos Sainz in seventh and Romain Grosjean in eighth — 0.012s apart and a second off Vettel — but Haas did not have a completely smooth session. Kevin Magnussen stopped on track in the opening moments with a suspected power unit issue, but the brief red flag allowed the car to be towed back to the pits and he rejoined the action after only a short delay.
Lando Norris in 12th was the only other driver to use the medium tire for his best lap time, with track temperatures reaching 117F to give the softer compounds a tough test.
Williams continued to test new parts as it introduces mid-season upgrades after its difficult start to the year, and Robert Kubica’s best lap left him within 0.2s of Antonio Giovinazzi ahead of him.