Formula 1

Hamilton and Mercedes quickest in Austrian GP second practice

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Lewis Hamilton - 2018 Austrian GP - Formula 1
Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd.

Just as they did in Free Practice 1, Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport topped the timesheets on Friday afternoon in Austria, with Lewis Hamilton leading Valtteri Bottas.

Hamilton’s time of a 1 minute 04.579 seconds was just under two-tenths faster than Bottas, with Scuderia Ferrari‘s Sebastian Vettel moving into the top three.

As dark clouds continued to loom large over the Red Bull Ring, Vettel lead the way after the first set of runs with Hamilton snapping at his heels less than a tenth behind. With both drivers sporting the soft compound tyres, it was the Mercedes’ pace that was more impressive – Hamilton’s time came on his very first flying lap whilst the German had completed five.

Hamilton improved just moments later, lowering the day’s benchmark into the 1 minute 04 second bracket, already three-tenths faster than his morning time. When Bottas leapt up to second, replicating the Mercedes 1-2 seen earlier, times started to settle – Vettel demoted to third ahead of the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing pair.

Forty minutes into the session, the red flag halted proceedings for four minutes. Pierre Gasly became another victim of the fierce kerbs on the exit of Turn 9, breaking his front left suspension and severely hampering his session. The Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda driver had shown very promising early pace, even holding a top five spot in the first ten minutes of the session before dropping down to ninth at the time of his excursion.

When running resumed most drivers opted to fit the ultra-soft tyres, however there was little in the way of improvement. Hamilton came close, getting within a eight-hundredths of his best time on the soft compound, whilst Bottas did manage to close the gap to his team-mate – although only by 12 thousandths. Max Verstappen followed the Finn in making an equally minimal improvement.

That marked the end of the fast running, with the last third of the session seeing drivers settling into longer runs. On the purple-walled tyres, Hamilton and Bottas also led the way in terms of high-fuel pace – it rounded off a perfect start to Mercedes’ Austrian Grand Prix weekend.

After Verstappen managed to get within three-tenths of the ultimate pace in Free Practice 1, Red Bull slumped to fourth and fifth in the afternoon on home turf. Daniel Ricciardo narrowly led the Dutchman at session’s end; crucially, they remained ahead of Kimi Räikkönen‘s Ferrari.

The fourth row was locked out by the Haas F1 Team. Romain Grosjean continued his impressive Friday, retaining his seventh place, and was joined by Kevin Magnussen – the Dane improved by around a second from his morning’s efforts. The only blip for the American team came five minutes from the end of the session, Magnussen had to stop the car in the pitlane with a loose right front wheel.

Gasly, who blamed his meeting with kerbs on understeer, managed to return to the track late in the session and held his ninth position ahead of Stoffel Vandoorne in tenth. Like Magnussen, the Belgian showed a vast improvement from FP1 to FP2 and the session marked the seventh time that Vandoorne has beaten team-mate Fernando Alonso in an official session this season.

However, that was mostly down to Alonso spending a worrying amount of time in the garage with the floor missing from his McLaren F1 Team car. It meant that nineteenth fastest was the best he could muster.

The Renault Sport Formula 1 Team endured a sluggish start to their session, despite bringing their power unit upgrade forward for Austria. Nico Hülkenberg asked for an early alteration to be made to his unit, leaving him fifteenth – four places behind team-mate Carlos Sainz Jr.

Once again, Charles Leclerc topped the Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team battle – hovering just outside of the 1 minute 05 seconds boundary in twelfth. Marcus Ericsson also continued his improvement in form, sandwiched between Esteban Ocon and Hülkenberg.

Brendon Hartley and Sergio Pérez could not match their team-mates and Williams Martini Racing were unsurprisingly the slowest team, although Sergey Sirotkin did manage sixteenth, through Lance Stroll. The Canadian was two seconds off of the ultimate pace.

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DTM, Formula 1 writer and deputy editor for The Checkered Flag. Autosport Academy member and freelance voice over artist.
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