Lewis Hamilton was fastest in the first practice session for this weekends Austrian Grand Prix. The Englishman who won Sunday’s French Grand Prix was a tenth faster than his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen third.
Mercedes are expected to perform well this weekend, as the Red Bull Ring suits the high speed and downforce which suit the Mercedes. They find their advantage in the first and third sectors, which is largely made up of long straights and high-speed corners.
The team have also brought a new aero package this weekend, featuring re-profiled sidepods and slots in the rear wing, while Renault is rumoured to have an engine software upgrade capable of unlocking more ultimate performance in the final session of qualifying.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was fourth, with his teammate Kimi Raikkonen sixth. However, this season the Italian team has shown little of its real performance in practice. Raikkonen also made a mistake locking up and ran wide on one of his fast laps.
The two Ferrari’s were spilt by the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo who was rapid on the early runs, using soft tyres as others used supersofts and ultrasofts, but then spent quite a lot of time in the garage after checking for damage following a big kerb hit.
Haas also started the weekend strongly once again, the team getting Romain Grosjean into seventh ahead of the tightly packed midfield. Esteban Ocon was narrowly faster than Sauber’s Charles Leclerc, with Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly rounding out the top ten.
Gasly suffered a bit of damage after running wide at the fast Rindt corner while looking to set his fastest time. Stoffel Vandoorne suffered more damage breaking the front noise of his McLaren. Alonso was 1.7s off the pace using the soft compound tyre and Stoffel Vandoorne was 1.8s off on the super-softs.
Carlos Sainz was the fastest of the Renault powered cars running the new MGU-K, Red Bull and McLaren are not using the upgrade to avoid penalties, the Spaniard was thirteenth ahead of Sergio Perez.
They will inevitably get a penalty when it is introduced, around the half-season point presumably, but Red Bull did not want to have a grid penalty for their home race on their own track.
The Belgian is under investigation for an unsafe release after Vettel nearly made contact with the McLaren as it entered the pit lane.
It was another tough start to the weekend for Williams, three years ago they were the main challengers to Mercedes in Austria, but as the dismal story of the season continued with Lance Stroll sixteenth and Robert Kubica twentieth.