Max Verstappen topped first practice ahead of both Ferrari drivers at the Austrian Grand Prix.
The Dutchman, winner of last weekend’s Styrian Grand Prix at the same circuit, set his best time of 1m05.143s on the soft compound to go 0.266s quicker than Charles Leclerc, who was just 0.022s faster than Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz despite complaining of several right-front lock-ups.
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Valtteri Bottas was 0.3s behind in the lead Mercedes, while Lewis Hamilton was more than half a second off the pace in seventh after repeatedly falling foul of track limits.
The first session was unusual for the widespread use of the soft compound. Every driver used a set for at least one run when ordinarily the grippiest tire would be saved for the more representative second practice session and for later in the weekend.
Pirelli has gone one step softer with its range of tires compared to last weekend; whereas for the Styrian Grand Prix the middle three compounds in the five-compound range were used, for this weekend the softest three are in rotation.
The soft tire is therefore new to the teams at this circuit, but considering a one-stop race was marginal last weekend even on harder rubber, the soft tires are unlikely to play a major role in race strategy this Sunday, meaning teams were unconcerned to burn through them at first opportunity.
Other meaningful running was also curtailed by Pirelli introducing a prototype tire construction in response to the failures witnessed at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. The sturdier build will allow teams to safely run the tires at lower temperatures and, if approved this weekend, will feature at the British Grand Prix in two weeks.
Pirelli requires 12 laps between two sets of the experimental rubber per driver over the course of Friday’s two sessions. Lando Norris, Lance Stroll and Sebastian Vettel dispensed with both sets in FP1, while only Daniel Ricciardo and Roy Nissany, sitting in George Russell’s car, opted against the new compound.
Yuki Tsunoda was a competitive fifth despite running wide through the gravel between Turns 3 and 4, the Japanese driver getting drawn into the run-off area as he kept his foot on the throttle.
Kimi Raikkonen was sixth for Alfa Romeo ahead of Hamilton and Red Bull Racing’s Sergio Perez. Pierre Gasly was ninth, while Norris completed the top 10 ahead of Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and McLaren teammate Daniel Ricciardo.
Stroll was 13th for Aston Martin, but the Canadian twice ran off the road, first through the grass at turn six and then spinning through the gravel exiting the last corner, stopping only a matter of feet shy of the barriers.
Alpine junior and Formula 2 championship leader Guanyu Zhou commandeered Fernando Alonso’s car to take 14th place, 0.4s behind temporary teammate Ocon.
Vettel was 15th after having times deleted for exceeding track limits, though he finished ahead of Alfa Romeo reserve driver Callum Ilott in the Briton’s second practice session of the year following the Portuguese Grand Prix.
Mick Schumacher was 17th for Haas ahead of Nissany and Nicholas Latifi in the Williams cars and Nikita Mazepin bringing up the rear.