Verstappen sets the pace in Austrian GP first practice

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen picked up on Friday where he left off last week at the Red Bull Ring, leading the field in the opening practice session for the Austrian Grand Prix.

The Dutchman edged the Ferrari duo of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz by a 0.266s margin, while Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas and AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda completed the top five.

    Austrian Grand Prix Free Practice 1 – Results

While the venue will look very familiar to teams and drivers this weekend, as a reminder, the field is running on a softer selection of compounds from Pirelli, with the Italian supplier opting for the C3, C4 and C5 tyres.

But Pirelli was set to test a new, more durable tyre in FP1, with each team required to run on the new rubber during the session.

Finally, FIA Formula Championship leader Guanyou Zhou took to the track in an official F1 session for the first time, the Chinese driver replacing Alpine’s Fernando Alonso.

The young charger was also joined by Callum Ilott running in place of Antonio Giovinazzi at Alfa Romeo and Roy Nissany enjoying another FP1 outing with Williams.

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After the usual period of installation laps and early flyers, Verstappen was quick to assert his position at the top of the timesheet, and the Dutchman was followed by his fellow Red Bull and Honda-backed colleagues, namely Pierre Gasly, Sergio Perez and Tsunoda.

Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll endured a laborious start to his weekend, spinning twice in the first 20 minutes of the session.

Sainz was the first driver to break the Red Bull formation at the front when he slot in just behind Verstappen. But a decent lap by teammate Charles Leclerc allowed the Monegasque to snatch P2, just 0.266s off the pace setter.

Meanwhile, Bottas in P5 was the quickest of the Mercedes pair while Hamilton lingered down the order, just inside the top ten with 15 minutes to go.

Positions remained unchanged among the front-runners, with Verstappen’s fastest time 1m05.143s going unchallenged as he led Leclerc, Sainz, Bottas and Tsunoda.

Alfa’s Kimi Raikkonen enjoyed a solid work session, the Iceman clocking in sixth and ahead of Hamilton, Perez, Gasly and Lando Norris.

Ocon and Ricciardo lined up just outside of the top-ten, while both Aston Martin were also sat in the second half of the field.

Alpine junior Zhou did a decent job to finish his maiden FP1 a creditable P14, while Ilott also kept himself out of trouble to end his session P16.

Further behind, fellow young driver Nissany in P18 was faster than his Williams teammate Nicholas Latifi, while Haas’ Nikita Mazepin brought up the rear once again.

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