Charles Leclerc topped the times during a drama-filled second practice for the Austrian Grand Prix. The Monacan was three tenths faster than the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas and Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly was third, following a dramatic tense middle part of the session.
Leclerc’s outright pace could be misleading as the qualifying simulations were heavily interrupted by red flags, meaning it was hard both to get an understanding of the gap between the top three teams. First to go off at Red Bull Mobile was Max Verstappen, the Dutchman losing control through the final corner.
Verstappen blamed the wind, saying: “I was already complaining all my laps about the wind being really tricky in some places was just losing the rear. I got into the corner and suddenly you could see in the data that the rear turned around, so that definitely didn’t help”
The next casualty was Bottas, the Finn losing control at Turn Five, going across the gravel and into a nose-first collision with the wall. Both drivers were unscathed from the incidents with Bottas given the all-clear after a precautionary trip to the medical centre after a particularly heavy impact.
Take three, the Stryian mountains weren’t done yet, Sebastian Vettel went off when the session again resumed as he set about a fast lap, although the Ferrari driver avoided the barriers and simply damaged his tyres.
Bottas had set the pace early on and remained second as Leclerc was the only driver to go faster. The Finn had gone a just over a tenth faster than Hamilton. Then Bottas’s accident stopped Hamilton from improving, but he had already aborted the lap after being off the pace in the first and second sectors.
Gasly was the only driver from the top three teams to complete a clean soft run putting him third ahead of Hamilton, who didn’t manage a run on the fastest compound of tyre.
Carlos Sainz showed McLaren had pace, using the soft tyres to go fifth. While he avoided his own drama at Turn Six when he lost the rear on entry. That put him a tenth and a half ahead of the Haas of Romain Grosjean.
Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen also went wide at the final corner, but hung on to the car going seventh, a tenth quicker than former teammate Sebastian Vettel. Verstappen was ninth not being able to complete a second run after his incident.
The second McLaren of Lando Norris was tenth, the Bristolian forced to abort several attempts on softs before making a marginal improvement when he did put a lap together.
Kevin Magnussen and Sergio Perez were eleventh and twelfth, and both managed to put in a quick lap on softs, as did thirteenth placed Alex Albon’s Toro Rosso.
Antonio Giovinazzi was unable to set a fast time, his first run stopped as he started his out lap with the first red flag, his second was stopped by the second red flags. He did improve but only for fourteenth, ahead of Daniil Kvyat.
Renault had a difficult session, with Nico Hulkenberg sixteenth and Daniel Ricciardo seventeenth, both ahead of the Racing Point of Lance Stroll. The two Williams drivers brought up the rear, with George Russell over a second quicker than Robert Kubica.