Verstappen leads Austrian GP FP1 ahead of Sainz and Leclerc

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Max Verstappen continued where he left off in Canada last time out, leading another F1 session in 2023 and topping FP1 for the Austrian GP, ahead of the two Ferrari cars despite using the harder, medium tyres to set his best time.

Photo Credit: Red Bull Racing Content Pool

In the second of six sprint weekends in Formula 1 in 2023, the drivers first had to face the one and only practice session for the weekend, at a sunny Red Bull Ring.

The track was very busy on the first few minutes, as expected, with drivers and teams keen to make the most of a truncated weekend in terms of track time.

Differently to a conventional weekend, teams started to run the hard compound tyre from early on, indicating work that is being done looking ahead to Sunday’s race.

After equalling Ayrton Senna’s win tally last time out in Canada, Verstappen showed no signs of slowing down in Austria – after the first ten minutes, Sergio Perez – who was feeling unwell ahead of the weekend, missing out on media day – trailed his team-mate Max Verstappen by just over a tenth of a second, with both cars on the hard tyres, with Lewis Hamiltin completing the top three in his Mercedes.

But that order didn’t last long, as Fernando Alonso put in a storming lap in his Aston Martin – although on the softer, medium tyres – of a 1:06.656 to go top of the times by over 0.3s from Verstappen’s earlier benchmark. Lewis Hamilton soon took second place from the reigning world champion, claiming P2 with a good lap on the hard tyres, just over 0.08s behind Alonso. But the Dutchman quickly reclaimed his top spot, with a lap of a 1:06.598 on the hard tyres.

One notable absence from the first 15 minutes of the session was that of the two Williams cars, which didn’t head out on track for the initial stages. After trialing a new upgrade package on Alex Albon’s car in Canada, the team has brought the package to Logan Srageant’s car as well.

As the session hit its one-third mark, Lewis Hamilton got his Mercedes to the top of the timings, with a strong lap on the hard tyres giving the seven-time champion the lead, just under 0.2s ahead of Verstappen, with Alonso in third. Perez, Stroll, Tsunoda, Ocon, Bottas, Norris and Gasly completed the top 10.

Despite its early absence on-track, Williams was straight on the pace as it hit the Red Bull Ring, with Alex Albon jumping up to fifth place after a lap on the soft tyres, just under four tenths back from Hamilton’s time.

At the halfway point of the session, the classified order was: Hamilton, Verstappen, Alonso, Perez, Albon, Stroll, Tsunoda, Ocon, Bottas and Norris. Notable absences from the top positions include the two Ferrari cars and George Russell’s Mercedes, possible running different programs to the cars around them.

Despite sitting in second place, Verstappen reported to be fighting understeer in his RB19, letting his team know that his front tyres were not “gripping up” as they should, and Pierre Gasly reported over his radio that his helmet tear-off got his stuck in his sidepod inlet.

Despite a large variety of tyre strategies and run plans, the field was compressed by just over 1.5s from top to bottom, indicating a possibly very close qualifying to come later on.

After a bit of a lull with most drivers doing race simulations, Oscar Piastri started the first qualifying simulation of the second half of the session, bolting on a set of soft tyres on his McLaren – which hasn’t got all the upgrades that are on Lando Norris’s car – and jumping up to sixth place, just 0.393s off Lewis Hamilton’s earlier time of a 1:06.416.

The two Alpine cars – fresh from announcing a new investment from directly from Hollywood – were the next cars on track to do their qualifying simulation runs, with Pierre Gasly slotting into P11, and Esteban Ocon aborting his first attempt.

Lance Stroll got his Aston Martin up into second place, with his run on the softs leaving him just 0.13s behind Hamilton.

With just 10 minutes of the session remaining, Logan Sargeant got his Williams up to eighth place, and George Russell slotted his Mercedes into fifth, as most drivers started to run their soft tyre qualifying simulations.

After a flurry of laps on the soft tyres, it was Max Verstappen who set the pace despite using the medium tyres, putting his RB19 just over 0.1s ahead of Leclerc’s Ferrari, who was on softs, with Sergio Perez just behind the Monegasque also on mediums.

Carlos Sainz stole the top spot shortly, setting the first lap time of the day into the 1:05s mark, with a 1:05.983 giving him the top of the timings.

After spending most of the session on the hard tyres, Lewis Hamilton finally bolted a new set of softs with eight minutes of the session remaining, but was only able to set the fourth fastest time, behind both Ferraris and Max Verstappen.

As the session reached its final five minutes, the classified order of the top 10 was: Sainz, Verstappen, Leclerc, Hamilton, Perez, Stroll, Alonso, Russell, Magnussen and Albon.

After doing three cool down laps on his medium tyres – a very different approach – Max Verstappen rose the top of the standings ahead of the two Ferrari cars, who were running the soft tyres. The Dutchman set a time of a 1:05.742, nearly a quarter of a second ahead of Carlos Sainz and a further 0.03s ahead of Leclerc.

Hamilton and Perez completed the top five, both just 0.5s off Verstappen’s time. The top 10 was completed by Lance Stroll, Kevin Magnussen, Fernando Alonso – who didn’t run the soft tyres – George Russell and Zhou Guanyu.

Source: F1