FP1: Max Verstappen tops only Austrian Grand Prix practice session ahead of Ferrari duo

Henry Valantine
Max Verstappen in Austrian Grand Prix practice. June 2023.

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen during Austrian Grand Prix practice. June 2023.

Max Verstappen went fastest in FP1 for the Austrian Grand Prix on Friday, in an ominous show of form from Red Bull and the reigning World Champion.

The Dutchman set the fastest time of the session on medium tyres, beating the Ferrari drivers of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc in the top three, with the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and second Red Bull of Sergio Perez also making the top five.

Lance Stroll, Kevin Magnussen, Fernando Alonso, George Russell and Zhou Guanyu rounded out the top 10 in the sole practice session of this sprint weekend for the Austrian Grand Prix, with Sunday’s grid to be set later on Friday.

With only one hour of practice for the drivers to get to grips with the Red Bull Ring, the track was understandably busy from the off as all 20 cars looked to get as many laps as possible in ahead of Austrian Grand Prix qualifying.

The only exceptions to this were Williams, with Alex Albon only driving a couple of installation laps in the first 15 minutes and Logan Sargeant not leaving the garage at all until 18 minutes in.

A mixture of hard and medium tyres were in use in the early stages for the drivers, with the Red Bull duo of Verstappen and Perez, who recovered from a cold on Thursday to be back in the cockpit on Friday, setting the early pace before Fernando Alonso set a 1:06.656 on medium tyres to lower the threshold by three tenths of a second.

With plenty of running to pack in and qualifying to prepare for, the drivers kept ploughing around the Red Bull Ring and the track evolved quickly, with Hamilton putting himself fastest on hard tyres on a 1:06.416 at the halfway mark.

Because of the circuit being one of the shortest of the year in terms of distance – and the fastest outright for lap time – the margins were tight throughout the field, as is always the case at the Austrian Grand Prix weekend.

Verstappen took to team radio to voice his concerns that his tyres were not gripping up to his liking, complaining of understeer on his Red Bull midway through the session.

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With qualifying on the minds of the teams, sets of soft tyres were bolted on to most of the cars for the final 10 minutes and lap times began to tumble even further.

Charles Leclerc briefly went fastest on softs before Verstappen trumped him by a tenth, in worrying signs for Ferrari and the rest with the Red Bull driver setting his lap on medium tyres.

Carlos Sainz was the first driver to drop below the 66-second barrier with a lap by clocking a 1:05.983 with his qualifying simulation, with other drivers trundling around to wind up for one final attempt before the end of the session.

Verstappen took a third cooldown lap on his medium tyres before winding up for a final run, with his 1:05.742 including two purple sectors to put the Red Bull driver in prime position to be in contention for another pole position come qualifying later on.

The two Ferrari drivers were behind, with Hamilton and Perez rounding out the top five.

FP1 classification: 2023 Austrian Grand Prix

1 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull 1:05.742
2 Carlos SAINZ Ferrari +0.241
3 Charles LECLERC Ferrari +0.270
4 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes +0.509
5 Sergio PEREZ Red Bull Racing +0.520
6 Lance STROLL Aston Martin +0.598
7 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Haas +0.755
8 Fernando ALONSO Aston Martin +0.914
9 George RUSSELL Mercedes +0.954
10 ZHOU Guanyu Alfa Romeo +1.038
11 Alexander ALBON Williams +1.052
12 Oscar PIASTRI McLaren +1.067
13 Nico HULKENBERG Haas +1.104
14 Valtteri BOTTAS Alfa Romeo +1.105
15 Yuki TSUNODA AlphaTauri +1.243
16 Nyck DE VRIES AlphaTauri +1.275
17 Logan SARGEANT Williams +1.276
18 Esteban OCON Alpine +1.460
19 Pierre GASLY Alpine +1.545
20 Lando NORRIS McLaren +1.626

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