After what happened in the last Grand Prix between Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton, what on earth will happen in Austria this weekend? Vettel was way out of order and although it took him some time, he’s finally realizing just how bad he behaved during that angry exchange. Trouble aside though, he managed to extend his lead over Lewis and the British driver must start narrowing that gap again.
It was advantage Hamilton in the first practice session in Austria. He finished fastest and was 0.449 seconds faster than Vettel who could only manage fourth place. An impressive result considering the fact that he used the slowest soft tyre while the championship leader was on the faster super-soft tyres. It looks as if Mercedes might just have sorted out a few of the problems they have encountered earlier in the season.
As we saw a fortnight ago, Red Bull showed more signs of narrowing the gap between them and Mercedes and Ferrari. Max Verstappen finished second behind Hamilton with the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas in third place. The other Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo finished in fifth just ahead of Kimi Raikkonen in his Ferrari despite spinning on the slippery track. That’s something that also happened to Vettel and Verstappen.
It’s usually doom and gloom when discussing McLaren but not so this time. Stoffel Vandoorne finished seventh and Fernando Alonso ninth, so could the tide be turning? There’s another upgraded engine being used this weekend though Alonso says, “there are not big changes in it.”
The dominance of Lewis Hamilton continued as he also finished fastest in the second practice session. It was a lot closer this time though with just a 0.147 seconds gap between his Mercedes and the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel. Bottas finished third, 0.216 seconds behind his team mate with the Red Bulls of Verstappen and Ricciardo in fourth and fifth with Raikkonen back in sixth. Kevin Magnusson was seventh fastest in his Haas.
Again, McLaren showed signs of improvement with Alonso eighth fastest. The upgraded engine is said to be 25bhp more powerful than before but that’s not going to get them anywhere near the top cars. The gap between them and Mercedes for example is said to be 70bhp less than their engine. A report without news of a McLaren engine failure is promising though.
It’s been an impressive Friday for Hamilton and one that holds lots of promise for the rest of the weekend. Race-simulation runs were also good and the only problem Lewis had was the need to change a spark plug on his Mercedes.
There were a few more spins during the second practice session with Bottas doing that at Turn Six. He also had problems with his Mercedes damaging the floor of his car. Daniil Kvyat had problems with overheating brakes but at least his car didn’t catch fire until safely in the pits. Both Ferraris also spun at one stage and poor old Marcus Ericsson spun twice in his Sauber. The slippery track could make for another fascinating race on Sunday.
I’ll be back tomorrow with a report on qualifying, until then enjoy your racing.