Alexander Albon suffered a heavy crash in his Red Bull as Lance Stroll’s Racing Point set the pace in second practice at the British Grand Prix.
Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton were only third and fifth, struggling with the windy conditions and balance on the ‘soft’ tyres.
Albon was second fastest, 0.090 seconds behind Stroll, but crashed at Stowe.
Albon has a new race engineer as Red Bull try to help the inexperienced driver cope with a difficult car.
The Anglo-Thai’s crash was the umpteenth time either he or team-mate Max Verstappen have lost the rear of their car mid-corner this season as the team battle with an aerodynamic instability problem with their new design.
Red Bull brought Daniel Ricciardo’s former engineer Simon Rennie back to the race team to try to help Albon out and the 24-year-old had looked like he was in decent shape before the crash.
“The rear went quite quickly and I struggled to correct it,” said Albon. “I thought I had it but then you get the tank-slapper as well. We’ll have a look at the data and see.
“We’ve definitely made a step as a team. The car feels good and we expected worse to be honest. The car was hooked up straight away. I’m sure the Merc are hiding quite a lot but as a car it feels well balanced.
“But the weather is different to what we expect tomorrow so it will be a reset.”
Team-mate Max Verstappen was only 14th, after getting blocked by Haas driver Romain Grosjean on his sole flying lap on the soft tyre, but appeared to have similar pace to Bottas on the medium tyre on a long run.
Hamilton, split from his team-mate by Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in fourth, looked very fast on the race-simulation runs later in the session, but the teams ran different programmes at different times so it was difficult to compare them as accurately as normal.
“Quite a difficult day, to be honest,” said Hamilton. “It’s always windy here, which is a good thing about this track but it has made it really tricky today with the car and the balance is not as good as I would like so we are just going to work on it tonight.
“It is not a disaster but it has been a hard day of driving.”
Leclerc’s team-mate Sebastian Vettel had a difficult day, missing nearly all the first session with an intercooler problem and then being delayed in the second session by a need to change his pedals after he complained of something loose in the cockpit. He ended up 18th.
Temperatures were extremely high at Silverstone on Friday, hitting 35C during the course of the afternoon.
But conditions are expected to be significantly cooler over the weekend, which means the times from Friday are especially unrepresentative.
But Stroll’s time underlines Racing Point’s emergence as a contender close to the front this year, in a car that has been dubbed the ‘pink Mercedes’ as the team admit to copying last year’s world title-winning car.
Behind the top five, McLaren’s Carlos Sainz was sixth, ahead of Nico Hulkenberg, who is subbing for Sergio Perez at Racing Point after the Mexican contracted coronavirus.
Perez says he is asymptomatic but is forced to self-isolate and may miss next weekend’s 70th Anniversary Grand Prix, again back at Silverstone.
Hulkenberg flew to Silverstone on Thursday night after Perez’s test result and spent the evening learning about the car and having a seat fit.
He then was confirmed only minutes before the first session in the morning when his coronavirus test came back negative.
Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly was eighth, ahead of Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo, both running new parts on their cars.
Sainz’s team-mate Lando Norris was 11th quickest, just over 0.3secs behind the Spaniard, while George Russell put the Williams 17th fastest.