Formula 1

Leclerc continues Ferrari pace in final Austrian GP practice

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Charles Leclerc - Formula 1 - 2019 Austrian GP
Credit: Ferrari

Following on from their success in Friday afternoon’s Free Practice 2, Charles Leclerc and Scuderia Ferrari topped the standings at the Red Bull Ring ahead of Formula 1 qualifying.

Leclerc was the the first man to set a sub 1:04.000 lap time this weekend, recording a time of 1:03.987 on the soft compound tyres as track temperatures in Austria exceeded 50C again.

Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas had to be content with second and third respectively, as Mercedes AMG Motorsport could not get within a tenth of a second to Leclerc – but stayed ahead of Sebastian Vettel in the second Ferrari.

Max Verstappen‘s time for Red Bull Racing ensured that the top five stayed within 0.5 seconds of each other, but the Dutchman continued to report the lag issues he suffered with the Honda power unit through the French Grand Prix weekend.

Bottas was the first of the frontrunners to set a time in a slow start to the session, before Leclerc quickly bettered him by beating Friday afternoon’s best time with a 1:04.826.

Vettel had been in touch with his team-mate initially, but Leclerc’s form and improvement showed no signs of stopping as the hour-long session headed towards the halfway mark, lighting up the timing screens a shade of purple to head closer to the 64 second threshold.

Hamilton had a leisurely start to the session and did not set a representative time in the first 30 minutes, and could only manage a sluggish fifth on his first fast run – running fractionally wide at Turn 9 numerous times in the hour.

Bottas then triggered the final 20 minutes of fast runs by eclipsing Leclerc by 0.054s, but soon found himself trailing the Monégasque and Hamilton in third place.

The five-time world champion was just 0.010s shy of Leclerc, but the Ferrari increased its pace by a further 0.133s to claim the fastest time of the weekend heading into one of the most crucial qualifying sessions of the season.

Lando Norris and the McLaren F1 Team were the best of the non-Mercedes/Ferrari/Red Bull runners in sixth, 0.999s off the best pace.

Norris’s team-mate Carlos Sainz Jr. will not partake in a serious qualifying programme, due to a multitude of engine penalties, but ended the session in eighth – one place behind the second Red Bull of Pierre Gasly, who suffered with a loss of power and spent a chunk of the hour in the garage.

Alfa Romeo Racing‘s Antonio Giovinazzi showed promise in ninth, ahead of Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda‘s Daniil Kvyat who rounded out the top 10.

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