Max Verstappen may be in the best position of the top teams going into Sunday’s race as he was in the top two in Friday’s practice sessions ahead of the Styrian Grand Prix. In FP2, the Dutchman was four-hundredths faster than the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas, in a session which could set the grid if the qualifying has to be cancelled.
Verstappen would start from pole if we are unable to run qualifying on Saturday or Sunday morning, he was four-hundredths faster than Bottas which gives him pole. We have never been in a situation like this, where the bad weather is expected to last up until the race.
Normally, if its Saturday rained off like in Japan last year we would run qualifying at nine o’clock on Sunday morning. But we have the situation where this isn’t possible it could be straight into the race on Sunday. All the normal rules don’t apply given we will be running on fresh tyres and without the top ten starting on the tyres they were fastest on in Q2 or in this case FP2.
The FP2 session was very different from the normal Friday given the need to qualify we saw the teams do much more low fuel running. The fact is we still don’t know what is going to happen.
F1 will try to push on with qualifying if possible, on Saturday, but if it cannot happen then the first option will be to run it on Sunday morning.
However, if Sunday morning’s conditions have not improved, then the grid will be decided by the order from this afternoon’s second practice session.
Mercedes in dark
Despite taking a one-two on the track in Sunday’s Grand Prix, Mercedes appeared to struggle during practice. Lewis Hamilton finished FP2 six tenth slower than his teammate and Austrian GP winner Valtteri Bottas, who was just edged out of the top spot by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
However, team principal Toto Wolff said, the team hadn’t gone for the full qualifying mode with its power unit but turned the engine up more than it normally would on a Friday.
He told Austrian broadcaster ORF, “It wasn’t full attack, but it wasn’t half attack either. We already added a little bit more. Let’s say, we drove on a performance level that we normally don’t drive on Friday. We are a bit in the dark, especially with Lewis’ time. There’s a problem with the car.”
Speaking about why he struggled Hamilton had no explanation, “It felt relatively normal, but it was quite far off, so there’s a lot of work that needs to go on in the background to try and figure out why.”
“I was feeling good in practice one and the start of P2 felt pretty good, and then it just started to drop off. Others out there are quick, and Valtteri’s obviously got good pace. Hopefully tomorrow it will be a bit better.
Ferrari a different car
Ferrari’s fast-tracked upgrades didn’t seem to deliver with Sebastian Vettel only sixteenth in FP2. Last weekend the German struggled with balance issues with his car, and Ferrari announced they would be bringing forward some of the upgrades for next weekend.
He says that the feeling in the cockpit was already “a lot better than last week”.
Vettel said, “If you look at the timing sheet, obviously I got the lap deleted and it was not a great day for lap times. Some people anticipated maybe rain tomorrow, and just prepared in case this is the qualifying for Sunday.”
“The main thing was to look after the upgrade that we brought, so step by step we were putting stuff on and it seems to be positive. We still need to have a look and now find the best window where the car is happiest.”
Vettel was particularly vocal about his complaints with the car running on high fuel in the race, but said it had made a notable step forward in both long- and short-run trim.
Lando Norris has been awarded a three-place grid penalty for overtaking under yellow flags in the opening practice session. Norris, who took the first podium of his career at last weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix, passed Pierre Gasly’s Alpha Tauri on track while yellow flags were showing at Turn 5 during the first practice session.
Yellow flags act as warnings to drivers of an incident on track and require cars to slow their pace and go single file with no overtaking. Although it was only a practice session the offence still carries a penalty because it is considered dangerous as the yellow flags are designed to warn of a hazard on the track.
Daniel Ricciardo suffered a high-speed crash in the second practice session. The Renault driver lost the rear of the car at the final corner before spinning into the barriers, he was able to get out of the car by himself and, after being taken to the medical centre, was given the all-clear by doctors.
Reflecting on what happened, Ricciardo said that there was no clear explanation for what happened. Saying “That first push lap was going quite well up until Turn 9. It was a mistake. It all happened very quickly so I’m not sure what went wrong.”
“I turned in and just lost the car straight away. I know these things happen with cars and in Formula 1, so it’s not out of the ordinary. I’m OK, however, I feel bad for the guys. We’ll just move on.
“The car felt fine this morning, especially towards the end. The second session would have been interesting, so we’ll just have to find out our pace tomorrow or Sunday.”
Mugello and Sochi added to the calendar
During FP1 Liberty Media confirmed that the next two races after Monza will be the Mugello Grand Prix on the 11 – 13 September and the Russian Grand Prix on its original date of 25 – 27 September.
The race at Mugello replaces the cancelled Singapore Grand Prix and takes the calendar up to ten races. The season is now largely expected to be centred on Eurasia and the Middle East, although there are suggestions that if two races can be held in Asia then they will travel beyond Europe.
The Chinese government announced on Friday that there would be no international sporting events in the country for the remainder of the year other than trials for the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Hope is fading for the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal, as the early onset of winter in Quebec means the event has to be held at the latest on the first weekend in October.