Mercedes hit back in second practice ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix, with Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas combining for a 1-2 finish in Styria.
Looking to end an unfamiliar run of four straight race weekends without a win, Mercedes head into Saturday’s running as the team to beat as Hamilton sat top with a 1:04.523 next to his name. Bottas was +0.189s behind and Max Verstappen was also in close quarters, +0.217s back.
Arguably the biggest eye-catchers though were Aston Martin, as Lance Stroll and Sebastian Vettel occupied the rest of the top five slots.
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) July 2, 2021
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After Guanyu Zhou, Callum Ilott and Roy Nissany took part in FP1, we were back to our regular schedule of drivers for second practice at the Red Bull Ring, where the blue skies had disappeared.
Carlos Sainz reported a few spots of rain on his first out-lap but it was more than safe enough to keep running with the slick tyres throughout the session.
What wasn’t safe, though, was the queuing up of cars at the pit-lane entry to start their first hot laps, causing a very dangerous traffic jam at two very quick corners.
— Planet F1 (@Planet_F1) July 2, 2021
Moments later, Leclerc would have another separate, scary moment at that particular part of the track as he almost lost control when riding the kerb. “That was a scary one,” Leclerc said with a sigh of relief.
Back at the front and after some more running with the prototype tyre [a new, reinforced rear tyre that could be introduced as early as Silverstone] it was Verstappen who was once again setting the pace with a 1:05.239 on the mediums. Perez, on the softs, was two tenths behind in P2 in the opening stages.
Vettel, Tsunoda and Stroll all managed to go faster than Perez on their first soft tyre run – but none could knock Verstappen off top spot.
That was until Bottas popped on the soft tyres himself and took half a second out of the Dutchman’s best, bringing the benchmark down to 1:04.712.
Verstappen set about trying to re-take the P1 spot, but found himself a tenth down in the opening sector and would fall a further tenth behind by the end of the lap. More spots of rain at Turn 3 could have played a part on that run.
Meanwhile, just before Verstappen’s lap, Hamilton was able to find a tenth on his team-mate Bottas to sit top of the timesheet heading into the final 30 minutes of the session.
The biggest problem during the latest round of race simulation runs was a lack of grip on track as the very light rain created somewhat of a slick surface.
Verstappen was most vocal, but was told to stay out there and brave the conditions as they may be very similar to what we see once the lights go out for race day on Sunday.
Turn 4 was becoming particularly troublesome, as Hamilton found out as he went for a spot of off-roading through the gravel trap.
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:04.523 30 laps
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 0.189s 33
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull 0.217s 34
4 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 0.616s 32
5 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 0.745s 36
6 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 0.833s 36
7 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 0.856s 37
8 Fernando Alonso Alpine 0.870s 33
9 Lando Norris McLaren 0.943s 33
10 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing 0.988s 31
11 Sergio Perez Red Bull 0.993s 38
12 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1.004s 35
13 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1.097s 36
14 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing 1.101s 32
15 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 1.175s 31
16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1.185s 33
17 George Russell Williams 1.296s 35
18 Mick Schumacher Haas 1.388s 34
19 Nicholas Latifi Williams 1.491s 37
20 Nikita Mazepin Haas 1.650s 34