Monday, May 27, 2024

Verstappen Edges Sainz and Leclerc in Sole Austrian GP Practice Session

Oracle Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen dominated the first and only practice session of the Austrian Grand Prix, outperforming the Scuderia Ferrari duo of Carlos Sainz Jr. and Charles Leclerc in a busy hour of running at the Red Bull Ring.

After its debut in Azerbaijan earlier this season, Formula 1’s new look Sprint format with two separate qualifying sessions returns at the Spielberg circuit, promising an exciting weekend of racing with additional points and prizes up for grabs. The new 2023 Sprint schedule sees the drivers and teams have just the one practice session to prepare their cars for qualifying on Friday, followed by the Sprint Shootout and Sprint on Saturday, and finally then the usual traditional Grand Prix itself on Sunday.

With warm and dry conditions at the start of FP1, but a looming threat of rain for the rest of the weekend, everyone got to track quickly to try and see their potential and Lewis Hamilton was raising eyebrows, with some exceptional pace on the hard compound tyre outperforming the likes of Verstappen on the same compound.

Just over ten minutes into the session, Verstappen set the fastest time with a 1:06.598s on hard tires, narrowly ahead of Alonso on mediums and Hamilton, who trailed by an additional tenth of a second, also on hard tires. Sergio Pérez looked to be in better form following a poor Canadian Grand Prix and an illness that saw him miss his media obligations yesterday.

Car 55 Carlos Sainz on track during Free Practice One at the 2023 Austrian Grand Prix.
Credit: Scuderia Ferrari Press Office

As the session progressed, there were several improvements on mediums and hards, including a 1:06.416s lap by Hamilton that put him in the lead for a large chunk of the session. However, a flurry of runs on soft tyres towards the end mixed up the timesheets and created a new running order.

While most of the field switched to soft tyres in the closing stages, including the Mercedes and upgraded Ferraris, the Red Bulls chose to stick with mediums instead of the red-marked rubber, seemingly saving their soft compound tyres for the high-pressure qualifying session, which will go on later today.

Despite the traditional difference in tyre performance from the medium to the soft, Verstappen, who leads the Drivers’ Championship, remained at the top. His lap time of 1m 05.742s was two-and-a-half tenths quicker than Sainz and Leclerc.

Hamilton finished as the leading Mercedes driver in fourth place, followed by Pérez in the other Red Bull. Haas F1 Team’s Kevin Magnussen, who is set to make his 150th Grand Prix start this weekend, secured seventh place, splitting the Aston Martin Armaco Cognizant F1 Team duo of Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso.

George Russell was down on his teammate and lacked some pace in ninth place, with Zhou Guanyu completing the top ten. Alex Albon, aiming to build on his strong points finish in Montreal, and McLaren F1 Team’s Oscar Piastri followed closely behind.

In the second Haas and Alfa Romeo cars, Nico Hulkenberg and Valtteri Bottas finished in the thirteen and fourteenth. Yuki Tsunoda and Nyck de Vries rounded out the midfield, with the latter under some serious pressure to keep his seat at Scuderia AlphaTauri. Logan Sargeant, Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly rounded out the rest, with Lando Norris last on the timesheets in his newly upgraded McLaren.

Norris didn’t set a time on the soft tyres as McLaren looked to protect his newly upgraded car, with the Brit taking a trip over a kerb earlier in the session. The teams will now prepare for qualifying later today, which should be an interesting affair with rain forecasted and traffic to be likely throughout!

1 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING HONDA RBPT 1:05.742 30
2 Carlos Sainz FERRARI 1:05.983 +0.241s 32
3 Charles Leclerc FERRARI 1:06.012 +0.270s 33
4 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:06.251 +0.509s 34
5 Sergio Perez RED BULL RACING HONDA RBPT 1:06.262 +0.520s 32
6 Lance Stroll ASTON MARTIN ARAMCO MERCEDES 1:06.340 +0.598s 29
7 Kevin Magnussen HAAS FERRARI 1:06.497 +0.755s 27
8 Fernando Alonso ASTON MARTIN ARAMCO MERCEDES 1:06.656 +0.914s 31
9 George Russell MERCEDES 1:06.696 +0.954s 28
10 Zhou Guanyu ALFA ROMEO FERRARI 1:06.780 +1.038s 33
11 Alexander Albon WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:06.794 +1.052s 23
12 Oscar Piastri MCLAREN MERCEDES 1:06.809 +1.067s 36
13 Nico Hulkenberg HAAS FERRARI 1:06.846 +1.104s 30
14 Valtteri Bottas ALFA ROMEO FERRARI 1:06.847 +1.105s 33
15 Yuki Tsunoda ALPHATAURI HONDA RBPT 1:06.985 +1.243s 34
16 Nyck De Vries ALPHATAURI HONDA RBPT 1:07.017 +1.275s 36
17 Logan Sargeant WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:07.018 +1.276s 25
18 Esteban Ocon ALPINE RENAULT 1:07.202 +1.460s 30
19 Pierre Gasly ALPINE RENAULT 1:07.287 +1.545s 28
20 Lando Norris MCLAREN MERCEDES 1:07.368 +1.626s 20