Austrian GP | Rosberg posts Red Bull Ring lap record to top FP1 as Ferrari show ‘Halo 2’

First free practice for the Austrian Grand Prix topped by Nico Rosberg.

The Red Bull Ring welcomed Formula One back, with Nico Rosberg taking the early advantage in FP1 with the fastest lap ever at the circuit. But the Red Bull Ring bit back on Verstappen, as kerbs snapped his suspension and damaged his front wing.

Nico Rosberg held the advantage at the Red Bull Ring going into the 2016 meet, with back-to-back victories since Formula One returned to Austria. A momentum he would go on to retain by the end of the 90-minute opening session, as Rosberg set about posting a new all-time lap record at the circuit.

Partly due to resurfacing, standard development of cars and engines, and the addition of the ultrasoft Pirelli tyres, Rosberg was able to beat Michael Schumacher’s 2003 lap time of 1:07.908 with an initial 1:07.644 before dropping the benchmark even further.

Rosberg’s best lap time, however, did see the German run wide at turn eight. With all four wheels crossing the white line.

The same corner had already claimed one victim earlier in the session. When Max Verstappen ran wide and clipped the new, yellow baguette kerb.

Verstappen’s impact with the new kerb saw the left-hand end plate of his front wing snap clean off. Before later finding the new baguette kerb placed at turn five, with a more substantial effect.

The contact made by the Red Bull at turn eight failed to prevent Verstappen from continuing on his way – minus part of his front wing. However, the contact with the kerb at turn five saw Verstappen’s front suspension snap – causing the Red Bull to sail into the gravel trap, ending his session beached.

Nico Rosberg similarly had found himself running over the gravel trap at turn three. But the Mercedes driver and championship leader was able to maintain enough speed to bounce across the gravel trap and reach the escape road.

Like his team-mate, Ricciardo too had an action packed FP1 as the Red Bull driver celebrated his 27th Birthday. Firstly, the Australian found himself forced to avoid a wild Sauber as Ericsson lost control during pit entry. Before later avoiding a slow Manor as Rio Haryanto rejoined the track following a spin at turn eight.

Verstappen and Rosberg were also not alone in taking to gravel traps, with Ricciardo also finding himself adventuring across the gravel. With Daniel losing control of the rear on turn in for turn six.

Hamilton and Grosjean too found themselves going for a spin in the early stages as the two lapped in close proximity. Firstly Lewis locked up on arrival at turn three, spinning into the gravel trap. Before Grosjean followed suit and span at turn three before coming to a rest on the inside of the exit.

Meanwhile, Vettel was forced to watch the early action from the pits as Ferrari set to work on his car.

Ferrari was forced to remove the floor from Vettel’s car as the session went green. With the team also forced to remove the second variation of the Halo cockpit protection device from the car, after Vettel was set to run the device during his recon lap.

The second variation of the cockpit protection device is slightly slimmer than the version ran by the team in pre-season testing. With the Halo now made out of titanium and wrapped in carbon fibre. ‘Halo 2’ also has a wider arc from the original in order to lower the risk of a driver hitting their head on it in the event of an impact.

The risk of a driver hitting their head on the device was also one of the issues raised with Red Bull’s Aeroscreen prior to the team terminating development of the concept.

Pos Driver Laps Time Gap
1 Nico Rosberg 36 1’07.373  —
2 Lewis Hamilton 33 1’07.730 0.357
3 Sebastian Vettel 27 1’08.022 0.649
4 Kimi Raikkonen 30 1’08.222 0.849
5 Daniel Ricciardo 34 1’08.528 1.155
6 Carlos Sainz Jr. 33 1’08.803 1.43
7 Felipe Massa 38 1’08.824 1.451
8 Max Verstappen 21 1’08.962 1.589
9 Daniil Kvyat 31 1’08.990 1.617
10 Valtteri Bottas 39 1’08.998 1.625
11 Romain Grosjean 33 1’09.078 1.705
12 Nico Hulkenberg 42 1’09.280 1.907
13 Jenson Button 30 1’09.365 1.992
14 Fernando Alonso 29 1’09.567 2.194
15 Kevin Magnussen 23 1’09.707 2.334
16 Pascal Wehrlein 33 1’09.775 2.402
17 Jolyon Palmer 27 1’09.851 2.478
18 Marcus Ericsson 34 1’09.929 2.556
19 Esteban Gutierrez 19 1’10.110 2.737
20 Felipe Nasr 25 1’10.314 2.941
21 Rio Haryanto 20 1’10.493 3.12
22 Alfonso Celis Jr. 36 1’10.860 3.487