Lewis Hamilton reasserted Mercedes’s credentials at the top of the time sheet with the fastest lap of second practice at the Austrian Grand Prix.
Hamilton struggled to string together a competitive time without exceeding track limits during the morning session, but with a fresh set of softs in the afternoon the Briton logged a time of 1m04.523s. His teammate, Valtteri Bottas, followed 0.189s behind, while Max Verstappen, quickest in FP1, was third and 0.217s off the pace.
The unsettled weather that has dominated the Red Bull Ring since Formula 1 arrived in Austria last week threatened to break shortly after the Dutchman set his quickest time a little after halfway through the 60-minute session, with rain affecting particularly in the first two sectors.
Mentioning rain now because it’s currently occurring and everyone else is tweeting about it.
— Alpine F1 Team (@AlpineF1Team)
The circuit was made slippery, but the showers never intensified enough to warrant a switch to wet-weather tires. Verstappen complained he was struggling to keep his car within the lines on the greasy track, and Hamilton went spearing off through the gravel at Turn 4 after losing adhesion; but with the forecast for Sunday similarly mixed, teams left their drivers out to circulate on slicks to acclimatize to the tricky conditions.
It meant there was no opportunity for drivers to improve the times they set in the first half of the session, which locked Aston Martin teammates Lance Stroll and Sebastian Vettel into fourth and fifth, 0.7s and 0.8s off the pace respectively.
AlphaTauri teammates Yuki Tsunoda and Pierre Gasly followed fractionally behind Vettel in sixth and seventh but ahead of Alpine’s Fernando Alonso, the Spaniard getting through the session unscathed despite several moments of radioed frustration for being obstructed by slower cars when attempting a hot lap.
Lando Norris was ninth for McLaren and 0.9s off the pace ahead of Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi, the Italian returning to the cockpit after making was for Ferrari junior Callum Ilott during FP1.
Sergio Perez was 11th, but the Mexican spent almost the entire session on a long race simulation of 29 laps, more than third of Sunday’s 71-lap race distance. The medium tire this week is the C4, the same as the little-used soft from last weekend’s Styrian Grand Prix, so the Mexican’s exploratory run is sure to be useful for team strategy later in the weekend.
Not to be outdone, Esteban Ocon had a similarly long 25-lap run on the soft compound, which didn’t appear at all last weekend at all and was thought unlikely to be useful for the race ahead of the weekend. The Frenchman’s best time was just over a second adrift.
Carlos Sainz was the best-placed Ferrari driver, finishing 13th and 1.097s off Verstappen’s pace, ahead of Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen.
Daniel Ricciardo was 15th for McLaren, the Australian using Pirelli’s prototype medium construction for almost half his 31 laps after opting against using it in FP1.
Charles Leclerc was 16th in the second Ferrari ahead of only the Williams and Haas cars, with George Russell leading Mick Schumacher, Nicholas Latifi and Nikita Mazepin.