Mercedes leads close first Austria GP practice

Image by Steven Tee/LAT

Mercedes leads close first Austria GP practice

Formula 1

Mercedes leads close first Austria GP practice


Mercedes started the Austrian Grand Prix weekend in strong form with Lewis Hamilton leading Valtteri Bottas in a tight opening practice session.

Fresh from his victory in the French Grand Prix last weekend, Hamilton set the pace with a 1m04.839s, with teammate Bottas just 0.127s adrift at the Red Bull Ring. In a largely uneventful session, it was Max Verstappen who was third — 0.233s off Hamilton — but the Dutchman had a spin at Turn 4 when running wide on the corner exit and losing the rear end after dipping a wheel in the gravel.

Aside from Verstappen’s error, the other standout moment was when McLaren released Stoffel Vandoorne into the path of Sebastian Vettel in the pit lane. Vettel — who finished the session 0.341s off the fastest time in fourth place — had to hit the brakes to avoid colliding with the Belgian, and the incident will be investigated after the session.

Daniel Ricciardo was fifth ahead of Kimi Raikkonen in sixth as the top three teams were again locking out the front six positions, although Raikkonen was over 0.9s slower than Hamilton and just 0.2s clear of Romain Grosjean in seventh place.

It was a strong FP1 for the French-speaking drivers, with Esteban Ocon in eighth ahead of Charles Leclerc in ninth and Pierre Gasly in 10th. Those positions ensured seven different teams featured in the top 10, with the short nature of the track — a little over 60 seconds in terms of lap time — leading to a smaller field spread. While most drivers used ultrasofts for their best laps, the Haas, Force India and Toro Rosso drivers were all on supersofts.

It was an encouraging start to the weekend for Sauber with Marcus Ericsson just 0.2s adrift of teammate Leclerc in 11th place, ahead of Kevin Magnussen’s Haas. Then came Carlos Sainz for Renault, with the French manufacturer having brought a new lightweight MGU-K to Austria that was being run by both Renaults and Vandoorne.

Aside from the incident with Vettel, it was another slow start to the weekend for McLaren with Fernando Alonso in 17th — albeit on soft tires — one position ahead of Vandoorne on supersofts. Robert Kubica also made another appearance for Williams but was slowest overall with a 1m07.424s, 0.8s adrift of teammate Lance Stroll on his first FP1 run since Barcelona.

-Chris Medland