Red Bull’s Max Verstappen topped the early timesheets in Austria, managing to outpace the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc while Mercedes were struggling to match the pace of their top competitors.
Today’s practice session marked the only free moment on track before this afternoon’s Qualifying and Verstappen was clearly quicker on his team’s home turf at the Red Bull Ring.
His fastest lap – in a car that features some aerodynamic and cooling updates – in 1:06.302 was 0.255s quicker than the Ferrari of Leclerc – although the Monegasque driver found pace towards the end of the session, enough to finish in P2.
Further down the pecking order today was George Russell, 0.4s off the top in the faster Mercedes and finished the session in third – ahead of Sergio Perez and teammate Lewis Hamilton in fourth and fifth respectively.
Kevin Magnussen finished in sixth for Haas ahead of last weekend’s Silverstone victor, Carlos Sainz in P7, and the Alpine of Fernando Alonso in P8.
It was another woeful start to a weekend for McLaren who missed out on the top-10 completely this afternoon – Lando Norris had a reliability issue, claiming his car was “on fire” during the session.
Afte returning to the pits, the British driver was not seen again before the end of the session, while teammate Daniel Ricciardo was also struggling. He had issues with his rear wing and finished way down in 17th.
Norris’ on track stoppage led to one of two red flags on Friday, the second of which occurred after a piece of debris flew onto the racing line.
Valtteri Bottas, who finished the session in P14, has several new engine components this weekend and will therefore start at the back of the grid in Sunday’s Austrian GP.
Qualifying will kick off at 4:00 pm Irish time at the Red Bull Ring – the results of which will form the grid for tomorrow’s Sprint.