Verstappen leads FP1 in Austria; Hamilton heads Mercedes 1-2 comeback in the afternoon

Pirelli carried out tests for a new robust compound set to make its debut during the British GP

By Olivia Kairu

F1 is back to Austria to put an end to the season’s first triple-header (Photo: F1/Twitter)

Max Verstappen set the tone of the first practice session in Austria, with the Mercedes making a comeback in the afternoon as Lewis Hamilton headed a 1-2 by the German team.

The Dutchman set a lap time of 1:05.558 on the test tires Pirelli brought in for the weekend, which he soon boosted to a 1:05.143 on the soft compound to earn P1. His teammate Sergio Perez strayed far behind in eighth and further back during the second session, dropping to P11 in FP2, way behind Verstappen, who finished the afternoon session in P3.

Hamilton, who was seventh, 0.566 seconds behind the fastest time in the first practice session, improved his time and claimed P1 on the softs to set the fastest lap time of FP2. Bottas made good on his P4 performance in FP1 to go a second faster and finish just one-tenth behind his teammate in FP2.

Hamilton was one of plenty of drivers who found their way off the track, going through the gravel at Turn 4 in FP2.

Although the race takes place at the same circuit as the Styrian Grand Prix last weekend, its results are far from predictable, with rain in the forecast for Sunday’s race and a change to the tire compounds from Pirelli. The soft C5, intermediate C4 and hard C3 tire compounds are allocated for this weekend. On Friday, the tire manufacturer also carried out tests for a new robust compound set to make its debut during the British GP at Silverstone, two weekends from now.

AlphaTauri fast again

AlphaTauri’s duo Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda alternated in holding P3 and P4 and occasionally P1, showing great promise for the weekend. Tsunoda, who made a mistake by leaving the track early in FP1, ended the Friday sessions sixth and just ahead of Gasly, who was seventh fastest. 

Current Formula 2 championship leader Guanyu Zhou made his F1 practice debut in Fernando Alonso’s Alpine as part of the French team’s Driver Academy Program. Zhou led an impressively smooth practice session and finished 14th. Alonso returned for a frustrating FP2 where his fast lap was interrupted by Kimi Raikkonen and another driver after he encountered traffic, finishing in P8. 

Antonio Giovinazzi watched from the pit gantry as Callum Illot sat in the Italian driver’s Alfa Romeo to finish FP1 in 16th place. Giovinazzi returned for a successful second practice session where he and his teammate Kimi Raikkonen spent a great deal of time in the top ten. The pair eventually finished 10th and 14th.

George Russell was also absent from his Williams this Friday morning, which instead was occupied by Roy Nissany, who finished P18. Russell’s drive in the second session ended with him in P17, while Nicholas Latifi held onto P19 for both sessions.

Ferrari showing pace

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr. finished P2 and P3 in the second session but fell to P16 and P13 in FP2 after spending a large portion of the session in the bottom two positions. Leclerc lost the rear to a snap of oversteer that launched him into the run-off area, which left him stunned. He radioed in describing the incident as a “scary one”.

Good result and some spins for Lance Stroll

Lance Stroll managed to set the fastest lap time for a brief moment in FP2, and he eventually finished his Friday strong, leading Aston Martin in P4 while Sebastian Vettel finished 0.129 seconds behind in P5. Stroll, one of two Canadians in the field, had a colourful FP1, as 12 minutes into the session he took an aggressive run into the grass after dipping his tires into the gravel at Turn 6.

Later in the session, Stroll also spun after running over the curbs at Turn 10 on cold tires. 

McLaren’s Lando Norris, who also came off the track in FP2, ended the first practice session in P10 and improved to P9 in FP2. Daniel Ricciardo finished in P15 after going 12th fastest in FP1. 

Nikita Mazepin finished last in both sessions while teammate Mick Schumacher was 18th fastest in FP2 after a P17 in the first session. Mazepin interfered with world champion Lewis Hamilton’s flying lap at Turn 3 during the first session, which led him to abort the lap.

Spots of showers turned into light rain at the close of the second session, which led teams to switch from qualifying simulations to race simulations due to similar conditions being predicted for race day. Drivers opted not to switch to the intermediates as practice for the conditions on Sunday.

The Austrian GP qualifying session is set for 9 A.M. Eastern Time on Saturday, with the race taking place at the same time on Sunday.

See the full FP1 results:

See the full FP2 results: