Hamilton and Bottas keep FP2 locked down for Mercedes

Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas continued to keep a firm hand on proceedings in the second free practice session for this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix.

Hamilton improved on his morning time to set the fastest lap of the day with a 1:04.579s, just under two tenths faster than Bottas. Sebastian Vettel kept Ferrari within touching distance in third place.

The session saw a number of minor incidents and run-offs. The most significant involved Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly who suffered suspension damage going off at the final corner.

Austrian Grand Prix – Free Practice 2

Pos Driver Team Time Gap Laps

1
Lewis Hamilton
Mercedes
1:04.579s

37

2
Valtteri Bottas
Mercedes
1:04.755s
+ 0.176s

42

3
Sebastian Vettel
Ferrari
1:04.815s
+ 0.236s

53

4
Daniel Ricciardo
Red Bull
1:05.031s
+ 0.452s

48

5
Max Verstappen
Red Bull
1:05.125s
+ 0.546s

48

6
Kimi Räikkönen
Ferrari
1:05.265s
+ 0.686s

42

7
Romain Grosjean
Haas
1:05.429s
+ 0.850s

38

8
Kevin Magnussen
Haas
1:05.559s
+ 0.980s

41

9
Pierre Gasly
Toro Rosso
1:05.758s
+ 1.179s

31

10
Stoffel Vandoorne
McLaren
1:05.930s
+ 1.351s

47

11
Carlos Sainz
Renault
1:05.999s
+ 1.420s

38

12
Charles Leclerc
Sauber
1:06.096s
+ 1.517s

30

13
Esteban Ocon
Force India
1:06.133s
+ 1.554s

43

14
Marcus Ericsson
Sauber
1:06.199s
+ 1.620s

29

15
Nico Hülkenberg
Renault
1:06.273s
+ 1.694s

42

16
Sergey Sirotkin
Williams
1:06.326s
+ 1.747s

49

17
Brendon Hartley
Toro Rosso
1:06.332s
+ 1.753s

55

18
Sergio Pérez
Force India
1:06.354s
+ 1.775s

48

19
Fernando Alonso
McLaren
1:06.429s
+ 1.850s

33

20
Lance Stroll
Williams
1:06.626s
+ 2.047s

44

When the track went green for the start of FP2, Romain Grosjean was first into action in the Haas. He was soon followed out by Williams Sergey Sirotkin, who had sat out the morning session in favour of the team’s test and development driver Robert Kubica.

Sauber’s Charles Leclerc had the satisfaction of being one of the drivers to go top of the time sheets in the opening moments, but his lap of 1:06.771s was a full two seconds slower than the morning’s top lap. Sure enough, the times immediately started to tumble when the Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen got to work.

Leclerc’s team mate Marcus Ericsson was just the first of several drivers to stray off the track during the afternoon. The Swede went off into the gravel at turn 4, triggering local yellow flags as he picked his way around an escape road. Renault’s Carlos Sainz had a similar mishap in the same part of the circuit just ten minutes later and had to follow in the Sauber’s wheel tracks to get back on track.

Haas’ Kevin Magnussen would also found that corner a tough corner to crack, and later in the session Max Verstappen likewise reported problems. “Turn 4 doesn’t feel good,” the Red Bull driver told the pit wall over the team radio. “First time lap I’m locking the fronts, the next I’m losing the rear!” The Dutch driver also found the first and penultimate corners tricky, later running wide on what would have potentially been his fastest laps of the afternoon.

Red Bull and Mercedes had delayed their post-lunch appearance for a quarter of an hour, but were immediately on the pace when they finally broke cover. Lewis Hamilton was once again looking in good form, posting a time of 1:04.579s to go four tenths faster than Vettel. A few minutes later, Valtteri Bottas slipped into second place to restore the 1-2 that Mercedes had enjoyed in the morning, while Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen settled into fourth and fifth ahead of Raikkonen.

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  • Hamilton and Mercedes lead the way in FP1 at Red Bull Ring

However, not Hamilton was immune to the problems that so many other drivers were experiencing at the Red Bull Ring. His Silver Arrow seemed to be finding turn 3 a particularly tricky challenge this afternoon: he messed it up twice in succession, but without any harm done on either occasion.

That wasn’t the case for Pierre Gasly, however. Shortly before the midpoint of the 90-minute session, the Toro Rosso unwisely strayed onto the yellow sausage kerbs on the outside of turn 9 and ran off in the final corner. The session was eventually red-flagged to allow the STR-13 to be retrieved from the gravel.

“I had a bit of understeer, went on the kerb, and the suspension completely broke there,” he told reporters while he waited for the Toro Rosso engineers to repair front left suspension damage on the car. “I don’t really know why … After the first run I felt some vibrations on the front-left and the team checked on the car, everything was fine.”

Fernando Alonso also lost some time in the session when the McLaren engineers had to take the floor off his MCL33 for a set-up change. Fortunately the work didn’t take too long, and the two-time world champion was soon back out on track. He then had a bit of a scare at turn 7 when his front right dipped into the gravel, but he was able to control the car and avoid further problems.

Alonso’s team mate Stoffel Vandoorne was also having problems, although in his case it was an overheating problem on the car that was causing power drops. There was also a late scare for Magnussen when he was sent out from the Haas pit box with his right-front tyre improperly attached. The race engineer ordered him to stop the car immediately, and the Dane duly complied.

In the meantime drivers had eventually moved on to ultrasofts tyres, but no one could challenge Hamilton’s existing time at the top. Attention then turned to carrying out long-distance runs on the purple-marked compounds before reverting to soft or supersofts for the end of the session. Teams had continued to keep an eye on dark clouds overhead in case their programmes were to be cut short by rain, but the precipitation ultimately didn’t materialise.

The final minutes of the session saw scares for Vettel and Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley. Both men went off while on high-speed laps, but were able to rejoin with no more harm done than a slightly elevated heart rate.

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