Verstappen leads FP1 and FP2, Bottas spins on pit lane, receives 3-place grid penalty

Red Bull had a stellar start to the first of two home race weekends for the outfit at the Red Bull Ring

By Olivia Kairu

(Photo: F1/Twitter)

Max Verstappen continued to lead the pack on the two Friday free practice sessions ahead of the Styrian Grand Pix.

The championship leader set the fastest time on the yellow-marked mediums, at 1:06.511, 20 minutes into the session and before he made his soft tire runs. The Dutchman soon improved on his time, setting the fastest time of the session of 1:05.910 on the softs.

FP1 saw a variation of medium and hard compound tire runs at the beginning of the session. Although rain clouds loomed during FP2, Verstappen was able to go quicker than he did in FP1, setting a time of 1:05.412. 

His Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez, meanwhile, had a comparatively quiet and slow Friday. The Mexican driver, who had an early spin on turn 4 after stepping in the gravel, was P13 in FP1. He then claimed 9th during the second session, while the rest of the grid ran qualifying simulations.

Pierre Gasly in the Honda powered AlphaTauri was quick around the circuit, finishing in second during FP1. The Red Bull owned team showed clear pace that was confirmed by Gasly’s rookie teammate, Yuki Tsunoda, who finished in P5. Suspected sensor issues in the power unit stopped Gasly from continuing with the FP2 while Tsunoda lucked out with a P15. 

Red Bull’s championship rivals Mercedes managed only P3 and P4 for Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas in FP1. The Briton held on to P3 during the second practice while Bottas slipped back into P12. 

The pair are on different strategies after Bottas voiced concerns over the strategy used in Paul Ricard; Bottas began on the soft compound and eased into the hard tires during the second session.

Unusual mistake leads to grid penalty for Bottas

Trouble ensued after Bottas spun in the pit lane in front of the McLaren garage during the late stages of FP2. 

McLaren spoke to race director Michael Masi on team-FIA radio, and Masi soon launched an investigation into the incident. “Michael that’s absolutely ridiculous. He could have taken our guys out there and the pit wall,” they said.

As a result, Bottas has been handed a three-place grid penalty for the pit lane incident by the racing stewards.

Daniel Ricciardo displayed confidence in his McLaren, jumping from P12 in FP1 to P2 in FP2, just 0.336 seconds off of Verstappen’s time. His teammate, Lando Norris, struggled in P16 but was able to secure P7 in FP2. Spots of rain and gusts of wind did however render a lot of his lap times unusable due to track limit violations at Turn 3, 9 and 10.

Alpine proved competitive, with Esteban Ocon securing P3 in the second session, while his teammate followed closely behind Hamilton in P5.

Lance Stroll briefly held onto P1 after setting a flying lap time of 1:06.079, which was soon beaten by fellow Aston Martin Racing teammate Sebastian Vettel. The pair finished with a strong P6 for Vettel and P8 for Stroll in the second practice session.

A disastrous weekend in France may have followed Ferrari to the hills of Austria, as Carlos Sainz Jr. brought out the yellow flags during the opening minutes of FP1, after spinning at the exit of the pit lane and blocking Bottas. The incident followed after complaints of throttle issues. Sainz’s misfortune carried on into FP2, as he spun at turn 5 after dipping a tire into the gravel trap, losing the rear of the car.

Sainz and his teammate Charles Leclerc found themselves stuck in the middle of the pack and just scraping the top 10 in a disappointing start to the weekend. Leclerc claimed P10 in FP1 and then dropped to P13 in FP2, while Sainz held on to P11 for both sessions. 

Robert Kubica, who took over Kimi Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo for the morning session, finished FP1 in 19th.

Haas’ rookie pair lined up behind George Russell in P16, who was the quickest of the back-markers. Mick Schumacher was 17th, half a second ahead of Nikita Mazepin in 18th in FP2. Mazepin suffered a similar incident to Sainz’s turn 5 spin, sending the Russian rookie spinning after a brief encounter with the gravel trap. 

Nicholas Latifi also had a tussle with the steering wheel at turn 6, which sent him spinning into the gravel and immediately back to the pit box to check for damage to his Williams. Latifi finished the second of Friday’s sessions in P19, ahead of only Gasly.

See the full FP1 results:

See the full FP2 results: