Motorsport fired up once again in Austria today as the 2020 FIA Formula 1 World Championshop at last got underway at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg.
And it was defending champion Lewis Hamilton who seized an early weekend advantage with the Mercedes setting the quickest lap of the day in afternoon practice session.
Hamilton finished almost two tenths of a second clear of teammate Valtteri Bottas, with Racing Point's Sergio Perez claiming third place. Mercedes’ expected challengers, Red Bull and Ferrari saw their drivers finish well off the pace with Sebastian Vettel more than six tenths of a seconds behind Hamilton in fourth place and Max Verstappen in eighth, almost a full second behind Hamilton.
"It's great to be back. It's been a long time coming," said Hamilton afterwards. "The new car obviously feels different than the 2018 car we got to test at Silverstone a few weeks ago, but I think we have also been able to continue to improve the car compared to last year, so that's a big positive. The track was a little bit greasy and while the grip will pick up, it feels like the track only improved a very small amount. It was looking good out there today, but you can never take too much from practice. You never know what power and fuel other teams are running. So we will take today's result with a pinch of salt, try and improve the car tonight and come back for the fight tomorrow.
Six-time champion Hamilton was a late starter in the session but when he headed out after 25 minutes on the mediums he quickly worked his way to top spot with a lap of 1:05.095s.
Soon after the field began to make qualifying runs on soft tyres and Sergio Perez and teammate Stroll were immediately to the fore. Perez took P1 with a lap of 1:04.945s, but Stroll made a mistake through Turn 8 and lost time. The pair were then edged out by Bottas who set a new benchmark with a lap of 1:04.501. Sebastian Vettel looked like he might challenge that but in the end his flying lap saw him slot into P3 behind Perez.
It was then Hamilton’s turn and he grabbed P1 with a lap of 1:04.304. The Briton’s effort put him 0.197s clear of Bottas, with Perez and Vettel shuffled back to third and fourth.
Max Verstappen, winner of the last two Austrian Grands Prix, finished in eighth place as the lead Red Bull driver, but his flying lap was 0.911s slower than Hamilton's best. Alex Albon finished 13th in the second Red Bull Charles Leclerc finished ninth to end a muted opening day for Ferrari.
2020 Formula 1 Austrian Grand Prix – Free Practice 2
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 42 1:04.304
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 37 1:04.501 0.197
3 Sergio Perez Racing Point 48 1:04.945 0.641
4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 48 1:04.961 0.657
5 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 36 1:04.972 0.668
6 Lando Norris McLaren 38 1:05.087 0.783
7 Lance Stroll Racing Point RP20 49 1:05.135 0.831
8 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 41 1:05.215 0.911
9 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 46 1:05.298 0.994
10 Carlos Sainz McLaren 37 1:05.352 1.048
11 Esteban Ocon Renault 20 42 1:05.415 1.111
12 Daniil Kvyat AlphaTauri 34 1:05.443 1.139
13 Alex Albon Red Bull Racing 47 1:05.453 1.149
14 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing 49 1:05.608 1.304
15 Kevin Magnussen Haas 44 1:05.678 1.374
16 Romain Grosjean Haas50 1:05.908 1.604
17 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 51 1:06.016 1.712
18 George Russell Williams 40 1:06.125 1.821
19 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing 44 1:06.278 1.974
20 Nicholas Latifi Williams 45 1:07.124 2.820