Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas were expected to dominate at this week’s Austrian Grand Prix, and on Friday, the two ran 1-2 in practice. Hamilton clocked a 1:04:579 fastest time of the day and Bottas finished second on the board, with Sebastian Vettel a distant third at the Red Bull Ring.
Hamilton was 0.176 seconds clear of Bottas and a further 0.236 seconds ahead of Vettel, setting the top time on ultrasoft tires.
A good reason for the domination of both Mercedes cars was the latest update on their aero package, which follows last weeks new engine upgrade, that Hamilton used to power his way to a relatively easy victory in France. As this was the opening day of practice for the weekend, it might not be hard to believe that Hamilton can dominate once again and extend his lead in the world championship to more than 14 points in which he is currently leading over Vettel after eight rounds.
On a day that was quite cool but produced no rain, both Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen driving on their home track, could not get close to the Mercedes or Vettel, both being five tenths off Hamilton’s pace and had to settle for fourth and fifth, respectively. Kimi Raikkonen took sixth place, while the American Haas F1 Team produced promising results, with Romain Grosjean, who is still looking for his first points of the year, finished in seventh, and his teammate Kevin Magnussen was eighth. Pierre Gasly continued placing at good levels taking ninth, despite a suspension failure towards the end of the afternoon session. Stoffel Vandoorne closed out the top ten, giving McLaren something to smile about after a horrible time in France last week.
The Renaults of Carlos Sainz Jr. and Nico Hulkenberg, who were both experimenting with brand new upgraded power units, were disappointing with Sainz Jr. in 11th and Hulkenberg finishing in 15th. The French engine’s focus is on qualifying, but the Mercedes brand new double package might make it tougher for the rest of the field counter, and unless bad weather comes, it could be an excellent weekend for the Silver Arrows.