Red Bull’s Formula One championship leader Max Verstappen picked up where he left off with the fastest time in first Friday practice for the Austrian Grand Prix at his team’s home circuit. The 23-year-old Dutch driver won the Styrian Grand Prix at Spielberg’s Red Bull Ring from pole position last Sunday and will be chasing his third win in a row, and fifth of the season, this weekend. Verstappen clocked a best time of one minute 05.143 seconds, with the Ferrari pair of Charles Leclerc, 0.266 slower, and Carlos Sainz second and third on the timesheets.
Mercedes’ seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, who is 18 points behind Verstappen after eight races, was only seventh fastest.
Teams were also testing a new Pirelli tyre with a stronger construction, after high-speed failures in Azerbaijan, that could be introduced at this month’s British Grand Prix if approved.
Pirelli have also brought softer compounds for this weekend’s race compared with last Sunday.
Hamilton’s Finnish team mate Valtteri Bottas was fourth, ahead of AlphaTauri’s Japanese rookie Yuki Tsunoda and Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen.
Verstappen’s Mexican team mate Sergio Perez clocked the eighth-best lap.
Several names more familiar to Formula Two fans also appeared on the timing screens, with Chinese test driver Guanyu Zhou making his first Friday appearance in Fernando Alonso’s Alpine.
Israeli Roy Nissany took George Russell’s Williams for the session, and Britain’s Callum Ilott took a turn in Antonio Giovinazzi’s Alfa Romeo.
Formula Two leader Zhou was the quickest of the stand-ins, with the 14th-best time.