In this morning’s first free practice session for the Austrian Grand Prix it was Nico Rosberg setting the early pace for the weekend as he topped the time sheet ahead of team-mate Lewis Hamilton. Red Bull failed to impress with either driver at their home race at the Red Bull Ring with both drivers unable to break into the top 10.
Before this morning’s session began the main talking point was Ferrari & Mercedes running a titanium skid block on Raikkonen & Rosberg’s cars with the intention to create artificial sparks. But once the session got underway the first timed laps were put in by the Mercedes duo. Getting an early 1-2 after Hamilton set the early pace but Nico leapt ahead by 0.8s. This turned out to be an early indication that the times would keep improving with Hamilton regaining top spot soon after.
Ericsson become the first driver to join the Mercedes’ out on track but was only able to set a lap time, at 12 seconds off the pace on his first run. Early issues then struck for Raikkonen and Rosberg with both being forced to return to the pits with car issues. Rosberg’s temporary retirement came following an ERS issue.
Times soon started to flood onto the leaderboard from the current midfield teams. With Massa becoming the closest challenger to the Mercedes’ after the first 17 minuets of running, with a lap of 1:14:8. But with times constantly increasing for the drivers with the evolving track this time would soon only be good enough for a team at the bottom of the grid.
Unlike Rosberg and Raikkonen earlier on in the session who were able to return to the pits after their issues, yellow flags were forced to come out as the Caterham of Ericsson stopped on track. Smoke was billowing from the front wheels as the Caterham sat on the exit of turn 1 following a power failure after he lost all electrical input. Caterham had radioed the driver, before he parked up, to tell him the “car is not safe” and to “jump out” due to it being an electrical issue.
Due to the falling times, Rosberg had fallen right down the order to 8th place whilst he was forced to sit in the pits. Despite entering the pits in second place, he was now behind team-mate Hamilton (1:12:255), Massa, Bottas, Hulkenberg, Magnussen, Kvyat, and Ricciardo. By the time he left the pits for his next run, he had actually fallen down to 12th place.
Thanks to Rosberg not being on track to challenge Hamilton’s time, the order at the front to be ‘best of the rest’ was constantly changing. As Hamilton sat in the pits, the other drivers were able to close in on Lewis’ early lap time, allowing Raikkonen and Hulkenberg to now be just over 1 tenth of the Mercedes driver as the first half an hour approaches its end. And this was the way it stood as all drivers headed to the pits for a change of tyres.
The order after the first 30 minuets was: Hamilton, Raikkonen, Hulkenberg, Vergne, Massa, Button, Alonso, Bottas, Ricciardo, Magnussen, Kvyat, Perez, Rosberg, Vettel, Maldonado, Chilton, Gutierrez, Sutil, Bianchi, Grosjean, Kobayashi, Ericsson.
After the opening 30 minuets of the session, Red Bull haven’t been showing much pace at their home race with Vettel with his best so far only being good enough for 14th. Whereas Ricciardo, following his win in Canada, has only been good enough for 9th. Other under-performers from the first thirty minuets were clearly Lotus, who still are yet to get their 2014 spec car in a challenging state.
The first driver to overtake Lewis at the top following the early stages was the McLaren of Jenson Button. But as Nico Rosberg set about making up for his earlier lost time, he was able to put in a 1:11:295 and take top spot with 40 minuets remaining of the session.
Rain began to drizzle over the Red Bull Ring during FP1, but drizzle was all that it was. Despite drivers, such as Daniel Ricciardo, felling the track was getting “a little bit greasy”, the weather screens were not suggesting the rain would interrupt the session.
Sutil sat out most of FP1 as was spotted carrying out interviews during the session. Sauber confirmed later on in the session that he would not be returning to the track due to a broken turbo hose.
Now into the last thirty minuets of the session, Sebastian Vettel was caught out going through the final corner and span out. On the penultimate corner he had run out wide and went out onto the run off area. The resulting poor line through the final corner saw the German run completely off the track and all four wheels going onto the AstroTurf. Luckily for Seb, he only had a double pirouette spin and amazingly his Red Bull stayed out of the barrier. Seb wasn’t the only driver to leave the track limits during the session with a heap of drivers attacking hard, locking up and running off the track.
Looking back at Lewis Hamilton, he had been sat in the pits and saw his fastest lap time fall down the order and was now right down the top order. But Lewis being Lewis, set out to show his pace and rocketed back up the order to regain second place, just over one tenth behind his team-mate.
Come the final twenty minuets of the opening session of the weekend and all cars had returned to the pits. Thanks to the returning rain intensifying, all teams that were still running out on track, opted to rest the cars and completely remove the risk of a destroyed car needing to be fixed over their lunch break.
Once the rain calmed down and the drivers were back out on track, it was more of the same as drivers continued to try to find the groove at the Red Bull Ring. But for some all they could find was the run off as they locked up and ran off the track. Lock ups were affecting drivers up and down the grid, with Hamilton locking up at turn 1 and Maldonado running off at turn 3.
Once the chequered flag fell to mark the end of the session it was Rosberg topping the time sheet ahead of team-mate Lewis Hamilton. FP1 was an impressive session for Force India and Williams as their drivers impressed over the session but eventually finished behind a Ferrari, a McLaren and of course the Mercedes’.
|6||11||Sergio Perez||Force India-Mercedes||1:12.009||0.714|
|7||27||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:12.072||0.777|
|13||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:12.570||1.275|
|15||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:12.988||1.693|