Fresh from his Styrian Grand Prix win, Max Verstappen was once again back on top as the second part of the double-header got underway in Austria.
The World Championship leader, looking for a third win in a row this season, set the early pace at the Red Bull Ring with a 1:05.143 – a two-tenth gap to the two Ferrari cars of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz.
Mercedes’ response, with Bottas P4 and Hamilton down in P7, looks a pretty tame one on paper but the latter was massively hindered by a slow-running Nikita Mazepin in his weekly role of traffic jammer.
The session also saw some fresh faces with Guanyu Zhou (P14), Callum Ilott (P16) and Roy Nissany (P18) all racking up the laps for Alpine, Alfa Romeo and Williams respectively.
Green light and both Bulls out of the 📦 early 😎 pic.twitter.com/4rzv3y9z14
— Red Bull Racing Honda (@redbullracing) July 2, 2021
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The track wasn’t the only familiar aspect as first practice got underway at the Red Bull, with the threat of rain once again looming over the circuit. However, it was a dry but overcast start to the day’s running.
With the likes of Hamilton exploring track limits in the early stages, almost exploring them too far was Yuki Tsunoda in the AlphaTauri as he went sliding off into the gravel trap.
He was able to keep it out of the barriers and so too did Lance Stroll, who spun out at Turn 7 moments later when testing the prototype tyres, which are new, reinforced rear tyres that could be used from the next round at Silverstone.
After the opening 20 minutes, it was an all Honda-powered top four with Verstappen leading the way with a 1:05.558, two tenths clear of Gasly. Tsunoda and Sergio Perez were four tenths off the pace in P3 and P4 respectively.
Hamilton was down in P20 after his first run was spent testing out the prototypes, but his first hot lap on the red-striped soft tyres propelled him up to P3 – three tenths behind his title rival Verstappen.
As Stroll suffered another spin, this time at Turn 10, Bottas was next to try his qualy sim run…however it was only good enough for P8 before finding better improvement on his next run.
Verstappen then upped the ante again, bringing the benchmark down to 1:05.143 to sit clear at the top of the timesheet. Hamilton’s immediate response lasted all of three corners as Mazepin heavily compromised his run, forcing him to back out completely.
That incident allowed Ferrari to emerge as the closest to Verstappen’s pace, as Leclerc and Sainz both closed to within two tenths to the Dutchman.
The rest of the session saw teams split between prototype tyre testing and some more race sim programmes, which could be crucial given the threat of rain is set to increase throughout the day.
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:05.143 33 laps
2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 0.266s 30
3 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 0.288s 29
4 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 0.302s 28
5 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 0.331s 32
6 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing 0.443s 25
7 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 0.566s 29
8 Sergio Perez Red Bull 0.583s 27
9 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 0.583s 31
10 Lando Norris McLaren 0.737s 24
11 Esteban Ocon Alpine 0.837s 27
12 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 1.038s 27
13 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1.060s 26
14 Guanyu Zhou Alpine 1.271s 27
15 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 1.301s 25
16 Callum Ilott Alfa Romeo Racing 1.421s 23
17 Mick Schumacher Haas 1.440s 27
18 Roy Nissany Williams 1.540s 31
19 Nicholas Latifi Williams 1.835s 33
20 Nikita Mazepin Haas 2.173s