Verstappen tops Leclerc in first Austrian GP practice

Mark Sutton/Motorsport Images

Verstappen tops Leclerc in first Austrian GP practice

Formula 1

Verstappen tops Leclerc in first Austrian GP practice

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Max Verstappen led a disrupted first practice session at the Austrian Grand Prix ahead of qualifying later today.

Verstappen looked comfortable at the head of the field for much of the crucial hour and ended his program 0.255s quicker than Charles Leclerc, with a best lap of 1m 6.302s. But no driver squeezed their complete programs into the 60-minute session thanks to two red flags that interrupted running.

The first was for Lando Norris, who parked his McLaren at the side of the road after reporting smoke emanating from beneath his seat, ending his session.

The second interruption was briefer for debris at Turn 6. Combined, the suspensions cost teams more than 15 minutes of track time.

It was a painful loss in one of the most important first practice sessions of the year thanks to the sprint format, which moves qualifying to Friday evening. Second practice follows on Saturday, but parc ferme conditions prevail, limiting its use in setting up the car.

Having focused on the medium compound before the second red flag, drivers turned their attention to the soft for qualifying simulation runs for the final quarter-hour.

Softs bolted on, Leclerc reduced his deficit from more than 0.35s down to 0.255s, while George Russell closed to 0.4s of the benchmark.

Sergio Perez struggled early in his stint but eventually got to within 0.537s of his teammate and ahead of Lewis Hamilton, who was 0.607s adrift.

Kevin Magnussen was a surprise front-running interloper in sixth at 0.663s behind the benchmark, displacing British Grand Prix winner Carlos Sainz, who was 0.737 slower than the title leader.

Fernando Alonso followed in eighth ahead of Mick Schumacher and Yuki Tsunoda as the last drivers lapping within a second of the quickest time.

Lance Stroll was 11th ahead of Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and Aston Martin teammate Sebastian Vettel.

Valtteri Bottas endured a scrappy hour. Not only did he find himself raggedly off the track and in the gravel several times, but he was fined €1000 for traveling 14.7 miles per hour above the pit lane speed limit. Alfa Romeo also confirmed he would start the grand prix on Sunday from the back of the grid with a new Ferrari power unit, exceeding his season allocation.

Alex Albon was 15th in his still-upgraded Williams — the new parts having been salvaged from his first-lap crash last weekend — ahead of AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly.

Daniel Ricciardo was 17th in a difficult session for McLaren. The Australian suffered from an oscillating DRS flap that restricted him to the hour’s lowest lap count behind his stopped teammate — he also suffered DRS problems in the British Grand Prix — and he also eschewed soft-tire running, leaving him 1.4s off the pace but his ultimate pace unknown.

Zhou Guanyu was 19th for Alfa Romeo, back in the car immediately after his massive Silverstone crash, ahead of Williams driver Nicholas Latifi and the stopped Norris.

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