Sebastian Vettel bounced back from his Silverstone heartbreak to set the fastest time of the opening day of his home event in Germany as Red Bull
overturned an early Mercedes advantage in free practice.
The Silver Arrows had enjoyed a big advantage when all the teams ran on the harder of the weekend's two allotted compounds in the morning session, but quickly found themselves pegged back when both the prime and options were fitted during the second 90-minute outing after lunch.
Although Vettel emerged on top at the end of play, it was Red Bull
team-mate Mark Webber
who set the early pace, lapping around a second faster than anyone else. The Australian would wind up third fastest overall, split from Vettel by 0.267secs and the Mercedes of Silverstone race winner Nico Rosberg.
Vettel lowered the weekend benchmark to 1min 30.416secs, some way below the best time set in the corresponding session when F1 last visited the 'Ring two years ago, but the real satisfaction will come from having stemmed the silver tide, temporarily at least, following the enforced switch of tyres on safety grounds.
The rubber behaved itself too, with no repeat of the failures that beset the British Grand Prix
less than a week ago. Although there were signs of wear on the front tyres – which haven't been changed in the same way as the rears – fears of a similar spate of blow-outs reduced further with every lap.
Behind Webber, Romain Grosjean
and Kimi Raikkonen
ensured that Lotus would remain on the list of contenders, while Fernando Alonso
rebounded from his FP1 frustration by taking sixth spot. The Spaniard had failed to set a time in the morning session after repeated ECU issues, but racked up 39 valuable laps after lunch as he headed Ferrari
team-mate Felipe Massa, as well as morning pacesetter Lewis Hamilton
and fellow Britons Jenson Button
and Paul di Resta in the top ten.
Although Rosberg and Hamilton were split by six spots and Sergio Perez trailed Button by five, the teams generally found their cars together on the timesheet, with Force India, Toro Rosso, Sauber, Williams, Caterham and Marussia all fielding two evenly matched drivers.
Caterham won the battle of the backmarkers with Charles Pic
and Giedo van der Garde finishing the day ahead of Jules Bianchi
and Max Chilton, but Marussia's Frenchman was unable to respond after quitting the session due to illness after just ten laps. The team hopes Bianchi will recover in time for Saturday, but have Rodolfo Gonzalez on stand-by after the Venezuelan took part in the morning session.