Hamilton tops second free practice at the Austrian Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton topped the time sheets in second free practice for the Austrian Grand Prix, to head home another Mercedes one-two. With Fernando Alonso finishing in third place once more to be best of the rest.

In the morning session Nico Rosberg topped the time sheets with Lewis Hamilton slotting in second place. As for the Red Bull’s at their home grand prix neither driver performed in the first session of the day so they were aiming to get back on course in the second free practice session.

After the end of FP1, it was announced by the FIA that John-Eric Vergne will be investigated by the race stewards following his extra 30 seconds of running in FP1 on the set of tyres that are only to be used for the opening 30 minuets.

In the opening stages of the session the first cars to hit the track were the Caterham of Ericsson, the Sauber of Sutil and Chilton in his Marussia. After car reliability issues in FP1 it made sense for Caterham and Sauber to send their drivers straight out of the pits from the start of proceedings. By the time Ericsson completed the first timed lap of the session (a 1:18:198) we had also saw Kobayashi and Button hit the track.

Sutil was flying over the first two sections of his first timed lap compared to the Caterham and popped in a lap time, 2.480 seconds faster than Ericsson. Could this weekend see the Sauber start gaining momentum closer to the midfield teams? After their poor start so far and without a point to the team’s name thus far, they find themselves behind Marussia in the constructor’s championship and surely must be looking to change that sooner rather than later.

Potentially an early sign some drivers will struggle in the opening stages of qualifying tomorrow, if the temperatures are the same as for FP2, with Jenson Button setting a lap slowest lap time of the session when he headed out for his first timed lap 6 minuets into the session. As for his team-mate Kevin Magnussen, he also struggled to set a competitive lap time on his opening lap.

Once Jenson had completed a few more timed laps he actually rocketed up the time sheet to take the fastest lap of the session with a 1:11:914, which actually would have been just 1 tenth of his fastest from FP1. His top spot was temporarily taken from him when Raikkonen set a 1:11:722 but Jenson soon improved to regain top spot with a 1:11:403, which is the second fastest lap time of the weekend to this point, following Rosberg’s 1:11:295 in the morning session.

Talking of the morning session, in FP1 a lot of drivers found themselves running off the track and in the opening stages of FP2, the drivers who missed most of the first session (Ericsson and Sutil) found themselves following this trend.

Going back to drivers setting the fastest lap times. This spot was now occupied by Rosberg after 17 minuets of running, who set a 1:10:835 to top Alonso as the only other driver to set a 1 minuet 10 second lap. Hamilton had a chance to take top spot from Rosberg when he next crossed the line but ended his lap just 6 thousandths of a second behind his team-mate. If it wasn’t for an error at turn 8 Hamilton would have secured the top spot but he didn’t let that mistake stick in his mind and cause another because on his next lap he improved to go 3 tenths faster than his team-mate. Early top-spot sitter, Jenson Button was now in seventh place and sitting in the pits.

After the opening twenty minuets of running every driver had registered a lap-time. But remarkably, considering their team owner owns the track, Red Bull were still yet to show their pace at the Red Bull Ring with Vettel and Ricciardo still yet to breach the top 10. This in comparison to Williams, who run a Mercedes power unit in 2014, had been setting times closer to the Mercedes with Bottas running in 3rd place as the half hour mark approached. As for the Mercedes team, Nico had stayed out on track for longer than Lewis and this extra track time could have seen him top the time sheets after setting the fastest first sector but opted for the pits. On a previous lap, Nico had got closer to Lewis’ fastest lap time but ended up 0.039s behind.

With most of the drivers sat in the pit, the talking point after 27 minuets soon swung to Hulkenberg as he was seen cutting the white pit entry line. He could have received a lap call from the team to box that lap but by cutting the white line it welcomes the stewards to investigate the situation. Back in FP1, Ricciardo also carried out a similar incident on his way to the pits and was forced into seeing the stewards as a result of his incident.

Back to the action, Grosjean was currently only fast enough for 19th place and clearly unhappy with his car. He clearly felt something was not right in his Lotus and even asked the team if they were “sure there is nothing wrong with my car?” It’s signs like this that show that even after seven rounds, Lotus are still yet to get to grips with their 2014 car.

Now into the last hour of Friday running, drivers were gradually heading out on the red marked super-soft tyres. Unlike in Canada when Mercedes showed no real difference on the two compounds, here in Austria Rosberg quickly set a new fastest lap of the session, even if it was to be beat by Hamilton on his first flying super-soft lap. In fact, Hamilton’s lap was the first to break the 1 minuet 10 second barrier with a 1:09:652, which put him 0.747seconds clear of Nico. It actually took Nico another three laps to break the 1 min 10 barrier, just, with a 1:09:919 to cut into Hamilton’s advantage but still not close enough to challenge for the top spot. Now half way through the session the lap count showed Nico had completed 5 more laps than his team-mate, and had actually completed the most laps of the session overall.

During the next half an hour the session felt very stagnated with no blistering laps being set with drivers running their plans. Hamilton was told to target a 1 minuet 12 second lap time, Rosberg was told to consider saving fuel, and there were some spots of rain falling on the track. With Nico having to consider fuel saving this could be an early sign that the Red Bull Ring will be a heavy fuel drinker, something that is yet to really cause concern this season despite the 100kg fuel flow rate. The only drivers that showed clear improvements in this third of the session were Red Bull. Both drivers were able to brake into the top 10 with Vettel moving up to 6th and Ricciardo in 9th.

As the session headed into the last 25 minuets of running, more rain began falling on the track with dark clouds circling the circuit and the wind picking up heavily in the final sector. Yet despite the appearance of the weather getting worse, no rain fell heavily and drivers dealt with the wind.

Come the final part of the session, almost every driver was pushing to the flag. But for Caterham and Kobayashi, the Japanese driver was sat in the pits. Originally caused by his car pulling to the right under breaking, but stayed in the box so the team could continue to gather data analysis from his car. And over in the Mercedes garage, Lewis was out of his car, looking over some data and bringing an end to his session.

But as the session drew to a close, it was once again a Mercedes on top of the time sheets but this time it was Lewis Hamilton rather than Nico Rosberg. Ahead of Alonso in his Ferrari, like in FP1 earlier today, and ahead of the Williams duo to round of the top 5.

Pos No Driver Team Time/Retired Gap Laps
1 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:09.542 37
2 6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:09.919 0.377 50
3 14 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:10.470 0.928 40
4 77 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 1:10.519 0.977 44
5 19 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1:10.521 0.979 39
6 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:10.807 1.265 39
7 22 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:10.813 1.271 44
8 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:10.920 1.378 36
9 20 Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Mercedes 1:10.936 1.394 45
10 25 Jean-Eric Vergne STR-Renault 1:10.972 1.430 39
11 7 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:10.974 1.432 45
12 26 Daniil Kvyat STR-Renault 1:11.261 1.719 45
13 11 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1:11.296 1.754 36
14 21 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1:11.491 1.949 42
15 13 Pastor Maldonado Lotus-Renault 1:11.765 2.223 30
16 99 Adrian Sutil Sauber-Ferrari 1:11.806 2.264 42
17 27 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1:11.935 2.393 39
18 4 Max Chilton Marussia-Ferrari 1:12.229 2.687 43
19 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:12.262 2.720 46
20 17 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Ferrari 1:12.279 2.737 36
21 10 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham-Renault 1:12.937 3.395 24
22 9 Marcus Ericsson Caterham-Renault 1:13.596 4.054 48

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