Second free practice at the Austrian Grand Prix topped by Sebastian Vettel despite gearbox issues.
Under the cover of Austrian mountains, Vettel had the better of the Mercedes’ to top the second practice session for the Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring. But despite being one hundredth of a second faster than Rosberg, a gearbox issue forced the prancing horse back into it’s stable.
During the opening practice session, where Nico Rosberg lead another Mercedes one-two, conditions at the Red Bull Ring were far from perfect as multiple drivers struggled with tyre temperatures in order to find grip. And during the gap between the two practice sessions conditions failed to improve and the ominous rain clouds crept closer. However as the second practice session rolled on, the wind changed direction and the threat of rain disappeared.
But when the green light came on and FP2 got underway, the rain clouds were still lingering and the threat of rain was high enough for the teams to rush out onto the track to get a handful of early laps under their belts on the soft tyres.
Sebastian Vettel, after his FP1 retirement, was also able to put some laps on the board. But the early pacesetter was his team-mate as Kimi led the early stage on a 1:10.298, six hundredths up on Hamilton and a further hundredth on Rosberg. The Mercedes’ duo however took to the track later than most and Hamilton used the better grip levels to overturn Kimi’s early lead.
Similarly to Vettel, Alonso put his FP1 issues behind him and put more laps next to his name in the upgraded McLaren-Honda. Most visibly is the new front wing McLaren have brought to the car with a shorter nose cone which passed its crash test following the Canadian Grand Prix. And over the opening stages of the session Alonso’s upgraded car had the upper hand to his team mate by three tenths of a second.
As the opening half hour rolled on drivers carried out short stints on the soft compound tyres. In this stage, Vettel nudged in between Raikkonen and Rosberg for third. But shortly after the German returned to his garage, Kimi left his side on the supersoft tyres and used the slight advantage the option tyres give in Austria to regain P1 by just shy of three tenths.
Flashing back to FP1, driver upon driver found themselves running wide at turns 1, 8 and 9. In the afternoon session this theme continued time and time again. One noticeable repeat offender in FP2 was the championship leader, Lewis Hamilton. The Briton pushed hard with every lap but kept finding himself running out onto the run off area, even when on the supersoft tyres. Before Lewis returned to the garage, he even fell down to fifth behind Maldonado, Rosberg and the flying Seb Vettel who was P1 on a 1:09.600.
At least when Lewis found himself running wide it was on the corners that have concrete run offs. Whereas Carlos Sainz locked up at turn five upon turn in and ran out onto one of the gravel traps. Carlos stuck in to keep his car from beaching and reach the strip at the back which leads onto the track but a slight lock up in the gravel caused his Toro Rosso to get closer to the tyre barrier which he narrowly avoided.
Despite being the fastest man on track, Sebastian Vettel was soon stuck in the garage after a terminal gearbox issue forced the pace setter back into the shadows. McLaren ensured Vettel was not lonely on the sidelines, after both cars were retired early on after the team noticed something in Button’s engine data that could affect both cars.
Seb’s time however was under no threat as high fuel running was carried out up and down the grid on the warming circuit. But the running Seb was missing out on meant Kimi’s was more important for the team. Luckily for them he was able to keep his pace consistent and similar to Rosberg’s while maintaining good fuel usage.
When the chequered flag fell, it marked a switch from FP1 with Vettel leading Rosberg and Raikkonen on the time sheets while Hamilton settled for fifth after a torrid time on his flyers.