Lewis Hamilton was fastest in the first practice session ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix after going three and a half tenths faster than his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas.
The six-times champion looked to have picked up where he left off in Barcelona Testing, appearing to be at ease with his Mercedes. Hamilton managed forty-two laps putting himself half a second ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
Hamilton appeared to get faster as the session went off, Verstappen looked as if he was the closest non-Mercedes challenger. Red Bull are still questioning the legality of the Mercedes, and haven’t ruled out a protest over the legality of the DAS system.
Most cars were sat in the pits for the early part of the session, following the install laps and while the track dried following earlier rain showers. Some were using the intermediate tyres during this phase, but it became clear that soon after the track was drying
It was a rather uneventful session, considering it was the first time that all the cars have been out on track in eight months. Carlos Sainz was fourth fastest, six tenths behind Hamilton and outpacing his teammate Lando Norris by almost two tenths, the McLaren duo were spilt by the Racing Point of Sergio Perez.
Perez appeared strong, he had to abandon what looked to be his fastest lap after smoking around his flying lap and he had to abandon his effort so the issue could be rectified. Teammate Lance Stroll lost his fastest lap after going to wide between Rindt and The Red Bull corner, he had to settle for eleventh.
Ferrari went into the weekend expecting to struggle, Charles Leclerc, was tenth fastest, a second off the pace, they were running on the medium tyre. The Scuderia are expecting a more difficult weekend to this race last year, with the SF1000 not featuring any updates since a disappointing testing programme.
Team-mate Sebastian Vettel was twelfth a further tenth and a half behind, the team pinning there hopes on Budapest in three weeks to make progress.
Daniel Ricciardo settled for eighth, the Renault driver at one point topping the session but ended a second off the pace. Kevin Magnussen took ninth for Haas, with Leclerc rounding out the top ten on the medium tyres, just over a second slower than Hamilton.
The first outing in just over four months wasn’t going to be trouble-free, although the session wasn’t without errors. Castrol Edge (Turn One) appeared to be the corner which caused the most issues, Kimi Räikkönen went in too deep on two occasions.
Pierre Gasly had two spins one of which caused George Russell to take late avoiding, and the pair finished sixteenth and seventeenth.
It wasn’t a good start for Romain Grosjean, he only managed six laps before a braking issue caused him to miss most of the session.
Second Practice should give a better understanding of where the teams are on race performance, however, it would appear most teams are where we expected them to be following testing in February.