Formula 1

Hamilton on lap record pace in opening practice for Austrian GP

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Lewis Hamilton beats the fastest lap time at the Red Bull Ring to finish top of the timesheets Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd.

Lewis Hamilton topped the timesheet of the opening practice session for the Austrian Grand Prix, beating last year’s fastest lap time by 1.3 seconds; while Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen finish second.

The Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula 1 Team driver set an early pace of 1:07.469, pushing both team-mate Valtteri Bottas and Verstappen down the grid after they set benchmark times in the opening stages. Hamilton finished the session with a time of 1:05.975, 1.3 seconds faster than the lap time set by Nico Rosberg at last year’s Free Practice 1 session.

Verstappen lost time after he clipped a wall, causing damage to the back right tyre, Red Bull Racing called him in to inspect the damage to the wheel. Even with this incident, he was still able to set a time of 1:06.165 to see him finish the session ahead of the second Mercedes of Bottas. Only 0.18 seconds separated the two drivers, behind them was the first Scuderia Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel.

Vettel had a moment during the session that saw him spin the car 180, after clipping the inside kerb at Turn 1. He had no control over the back end and was facing the way of incoming traffic, this caused a brief Yellow Flag for him to return the correct way. He finished the session with a time of 1:06.424. Daniel Ricciardo finished the session in fifth only 0.196 seconds behind Vettel, unlike team-mate Verstappen, Ricciardo had no problems with the RB13 or the Red Bull Ring.

Ricciardo split the two Ferrari drivers, as Kimi Raikkonen jumped up the grid to finish in sixth, for him this was all he could achieve after he back end of the SF70H snapped out and put him in to a spin at Turn 1, this saw flat spots on his Pirelli tyres. Raikkonen returned to the pits where he sat out half an hour of the session while engineers evaluated the incident. When he returned to the circuit, he jumped up to ninth, then fourth and finished the session in sixth with a time of 1:06.848.

McLaren Honda Racing had a good session as Stoffel Vandoorne finished the session with a time of 1:07.283, good enough for seventh ahead of the Scuderia Toro Rosso of Daniil Kvyat. Kvyat split the two McLaren drivers, as Fernando Alonso only finished 0.073 seconds behind, completing the top ten was the first Sahara Force India F1 Team driver of Esteban Ocon, who finished with a time of 1:07.510, only one thousandth of a second behind Alonso.

Felipe Massa finished in eleventh for Williams Martini Racing ahead of the first Haas Racing of Kevin Magnussen, who unlike team-mate Romain Grosjean had an incident-free session. With a time of 1:07.633 was the second Toro Rosso of Carlos Sainz Jr, only 0.016 seconds separated Sainz and Jolyon Palmer who finished in fourteenth. Lance Stroll had a difficult session after a spin at Turn 9 made him lose the car, afterwards he reported to the team that he could feel a lot of vibrations from the car.

Grosjean experienced a few problems with the VF17 during the session at the Red Bull Ring, including having to limp back to the pits with the car scraping along the ground with a puncture to the front left tyre. In the second Renault was Sergey Sirotkin who replaced Nico Hulkenberg for the session in his third appearance of the year. He finished with a time of 1:08.586 to finish ahead of Alfonso Celis Jr who substituted for Sergio Perez. Celis finished in eighteenth, 1.7 seconds slower than team-mate Ocon.

Pascal Wehrelin finished ahead of his Sauber F1 Team team-mate Marcus Ericsson who had some problems during the session and was garage bound for most of the session. Towards the end of the session, the C36 was seen to be in two parts, as Sauber got to work on the car to find the problems. Free Practice 1 saw a lot of drivers experiencing problems at Turn 1, with them losing the back end of the car, including Verstappen, Bottas and Grosjean. Will Free Practice 2 see the same amount of spins or will the drivers get it under control?

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