Lewis Hamilton continued his strong start to the season going almost two tenths faster than his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas in second practice ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix. The world champion appears to be in strong form going into the new season.
Mercedes appeared to be the team to beat as Hamilton set his fastest time midway through the session which put himself over half a second ahead of the Racing Point of Sergio Perez. The six-times champion set his fastest time on the soft tyres.
Hamilton’s pace could be seen as a clear mark that he wants to go for this seventh title, Spielberg has been a place where Mercedes has won it five times in the hybrid era. Red Bull who are looking to be their closest rivals could only manage eighth with Max Verstappen and thirteenth with Alex Albon.
Hamilton said, “It’s definitely looking good out there but you can never take too much from practice. A couple of other guys might be down a fuel mode. We’ll take it with a pinch of salt.”
It wasn’t perfect for the Red Bull duo, both made mistakes and while the team look to be the closest to Mercedes they are still far behind. Both Albon and Verstappen damaging the cars at the exit of Turn Six, the Dutchman also complained about damaging his front wing.
Mercedes are also facing a legality question over their car after Red Bull asked for a clarification on their controversial dual-axis steering system (DAS). This changes the ‘toe’ angle of the front wheels for tyre wear and aerodynamic benefit.
Sebastian Vettel put in a surprise performance to go forth fastest six and a half tenths off the pace. Ferrari came to the Red Bull Ring expecting to be behind Red Bull, although its Friday that might bode well for a step forwards once they get the ‘spec-2 car’ in Budapest in two weeks.
Daniel Ricciardo led the midfield going fifth fastest, six tenths off the pace ahead of the second Racing Point of Lance Stroll. The midfield pack was still as intriguing as it was in testing with four teams covered by less than half a second.
McLaren’s Lando Norris spilt Ricciardo and Stroll in sixth, these three teams appeared slightly further apart than expected. These teams will, however, make some progress overnight, as ever there are variables in fuel loads and strategy.
Verstappen made an error copying Kimi Raikkonen at Wurth Kurve, the Finn went across the gravel after getting a little wide. Verstappen when across the gravel trap, using the perimeter road to re-join the track, as stated in the race directors notes.
Castrol Edge appeared to be the corner proving to be the most difficult, Alpha Tauri Daniil Kvyat and Nicolas Latifti got out wide at Turn Three.
Charles Leclerc was ninth fastest, the last driver within a second of Hamilton, going a hundredth faster than his teammate for next season Carlos Sainz. Ferrari is pinning there hopes on the ‘Spec-B’ cars for Budapest in two week’s time.