Charles Leclerc was the fastest man in second Free Practice for the Austrian Grand Prix, as numerous Formula 1 drivers struggled with track conditions at the Red Bull Ring.
Leclerc’s lap time of a 1:05.086, set on soft tyres, ensured that Scuderia Ferrari went one better compared to Free Practice 1 in Spielberg and dethroned morning leader Mercedes AMG Motorsport – despite a slower ultimate pace.
Valtteri Bottas had to settle for second, ahead of Red Bull Racing‘s Pierre Gasly, and was one of three high profile drivers to skate off the circuit at high speed.
Bottas suffered a snap of oversteer and hit the wall hard with the front of his Mercedes at the exit of Turn 6 around halfway through the session while heading the standings.
The Finn’s accident was the second red flag in quick succession, after Max Verstappen at crashed at the final corner – Turn 10 – and damaged the right rear corner of his Red Bull.
Sebastian Vettel and Carlos Sainz Jr. also left the track at speed, at Turns 10 and 6 respectively, but both managed to regain control of their cars before the barriers.
Leclerc had led the session ahead of Lando Norris and Sainz Jr, as the McLaren F1 Team looked to have carried its brilliant French Grand Prix form into the start of the Austrian weekend.
Both Mercedes drivers struggled and ran wide off the track on the exit of Turn 10 on their first runs, but Free Practice 1 pacesetter Lewis Hamilton soon recovered to move towards the tail of Leclerc and into second place.
Bottas then set the fastest time on his next serious run, with a 1:05.417, and was immediately joined by Hamilton as Mercedes assumed its familiar 1-2 stance.
Verstappen had yet to find his feet in the session before ending a run on medium tyres in the barrier, losing the rear end mid-corner and effectively turning into a passenger.
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner confirmed that the Dutchman had a Friday gearbox in the car and the incident should not affect the rest of his weekend.
10 minutes later, Bottas’s impact was slightly more substantial when reapplying the throttle after the long Turn 6 and detached both front wheels.
Bottas was cleared from the on-site medical centre after precautionary checks, but it is currently unknown if Mercedes will need to change his monocoque overnight.
Leclerc set the eventual fastest time just seconds after team-mate Vettel had also lost the rear of his Ferrari on turn-in for the troublesome final corner.
The German stopped in the small gravel trap before the barriers and trundled back to the pits, but his set of soft tyres were ruined.
Hamilton ended the session fourth, 0.443 seconds behind Leclerc, and just ahead of Sainz Jr. in the lead McLaren.
Romain Grosjean claimed a welcome sixth for the Haas F1 Team with a very promising performance, but team-mate Kevin Magnussen just missed out on a top 10 spot.
Kimi Räikkönen edged ahead of the wounded Vettel and Verstappen in seventh, while Norris rounded out the top half of the field – as fourth to twelfth was separated by just 0.435s.
The Renault F1 Team‘s issue with its rear wing structure continued, as Nico Hülkenberg‘s upper wing flap clearly oscillated when DRS was in use – much like team-mate Daniel Ricciardo in the morning.
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