Austrian GP | Hamilton again fastest, but from Vettel in FP2

Lewis Hamilton again sets the pace in Austrian Grand Prix practice.

As issues struck at Red Bull and Toro Rosso, Ferrari surged to snatch second with Sebastian Vettel. But the pace-setter remained Lewis Hamilton as he followed his opening practice flyer with the fastest afternoon lap, despite reports of a late power issue.

After a shower of rain befell the Red Bull Ring between sessions, the sun shined once more over the Styrian mountains ahead of second free practice. Yet the threat of rain falling during track time remained, sitting at a high 80%.

The sun’s swift return ensured the green light to FP2 was met with a dry track. Welcomed by Nico Hulkenberg, stepping back into his Renault after Sergey Sirotkin’s FP1 blast. But stepping back into a car carrying issues as Hulkenberg showed early signs of concern with his front-axle, reporting he had “some small vibrations”.

Despite the German’s concerns, Renault requested that Hulkenberg remained on track in what was his first outing of the weekend. Using the track time to investigate if Nico had an issue, and to what severity any issue was at.

No issues, meanwhile, were befalling Magnussen and Haas. Seeing the Dane set the opening pace, only to be bettered by Raikkonen on softs as Ferrari split their tyre strategy amongst drivers.

Straddling the kerb during FP2, making sure not to run over the far-side yellow exit kerbs. Photo credit: Scuderia Ferrari.

Unlike Vettel, who hit the track on supersofts, Valterri Bottas too joined in on the early action running the soft compound tyre. Moving the FP1 pace-setting constructor back atop the leaderboard as he nestled into the 1:06s.

Vettel, however, soon snatched the top spot from the Mercedes. But was as soon pushed back down the order as it was to hit the top, with Bottas punching back with a lap faster than Lewis’ morning benchmark.

As Vettel and Bottas now jousted for the top spot, the previous pace-setting Kimi Raikkonen once again found himself running off track to follow his morning excursion.

Also following his morning run, Hamilton took to the top of the leaderboard. Edging Bottas by just a tenth, only for Valtteri to edge back by three-hundredths of a second.

After early issues were muttered by Hulkenberg, true issues prevented Verstappen from exiting the pits in the early stages. Sat watching on as Red Bull set about solving a brake issue. With Alonso, too, sat watching on as McLaren later replaced the Spaniard’s floor.

Fernando Alonso watches the action from the back of the McLaren garage as the team set to work on his floor. Photo credit: McLaren.

While Verstappen watched on, Vettel once more jumped atop the leaderboard. Moving ahead of Bottas again, who had now taken on the ultrasoft tyres to improve by one-thousandth. Bottas did, however, slide wide at Turn 9 on his flying lap. Then soon followed his slide with a spin as he dipped into the gravel at Turn 6.

Bottas was not alone in spinning, either. With Sergio Perez following the Silver Arrows detour with a spin of his own at Turn 3. Whereas the Finn’s team-mate, Hamilton, took the alternative route and rather than spin, moved into P1 with a 1:05.483.

More similarities soon struck at the Red Bull Ring, as like Alonso, Grosjean was left damaging his floor as he heavily ran wide at Turn 9 – suffering a “massive hit under the chassis” that sent Romain into the pits complaining of handling issues.

Romain swiftly rejoined the action, though. But only to further suffer another off at Turn 10 that flicked dirt into the air and potentially further damage his Haas’ floor.

Turn 9 was also catching out Carlos Sainz in the mid-session stage. Leaving the Spaniard looking for a route back onto the circuit, only to lose control on approach to the exit kerb that spat him back onto the grass and deep into the Turn 10 runoff.

Marcus Ericsson, too, found himself again running through the gravel rather than clinging to the track as he understeered off to follow his previous ventures and spin. While on top of his offs, Ericsson believed he had an issue with his floor. Something Sauber refuted, claiming it was Marcus overheating his tyres.

One thing certainly overheating in the shadows of the Styrian hills were Daniil Kvyat’s brakes as the Russian returned to the Toro Rosso box with both rear brakes on fire. Making the session a double retirement for the team, with Sainz out having sprung a leak on top of Kvyat’s previous reports of losing power.

Additionally, issues returned to the main Red Bull team as Daniel Ricciardo suffered a turbo failure that brought his session to an early end too. Daniel had previously posted the fifth fastest time of the day, four-tenths down on Hamilton and four-hundredths down on Verstappen.

Slender margins were also matched in race-simulation runs. With Mercedes and Ferrari both lapping in the mid-1:14s, some 9-seconds off their outright pace, come the end of their runs. Averaging on the ultrasoft tyres 1:08.580 (Hamilton, 4 laps);  9.188 (Bottas, 7 – damaged floor); 9.283 (Raikkonen 8). While Vettel on the supersofts averaged a 1:09.180 over 15) laps.

But late running remained imperfect, with Hamilton reporting he had issues with power – something the team confirmed they could see in the data.

Nevertheless, Hamilton remained on track despite the issues. But as the session progressed, Lewis returned to the radio to report “Something doesn’t feel right”. Yet once again was told to stay out for a little longer.

Pos Driver Team Laps Time Gap
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 30 1’05.483
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 50 1’05.630 0.147
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 41 1’05.699 0.216
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull 33 1’05.832 0.349
5 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 27 1’05.873 0.39
6 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 54 1’06.144 0.661
7 Kevin Magnussen Haas 43 1’06.591 1.108
8 Fernando Alonso McLaren 27 1’06.732 1.249
9 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 42 1’06.735 1.252
10 Romain Grosjean Haas 52 1’06.763 1.28
11 Esteban Ocon Force India 50 1’06.849 1.366
12 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 37 1’06.859 1.376
13 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 34 1’06.906 1.423
14 Felipe Massa Williams 50 1’07.065 1.582
15 Carlos Sainz Jr. Toro Rosso 24 1’07.100 1.617
16 Lance Stroll Williams 46 1’07.468 1.985
17 Sergio Perez Force India 41 1’07.509 2.026
18 Jolyon Palmer Renault 7 1’07.623 2.14
19 Pascal Wehrlein Sauber 49 1’08.782 3.299
20 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 51 1’08.870 3.387