Game on between Mercedes
Mercedes and Ferrari appeared to be equal during practice in Spielberg, however, the second session was interrupted by a number of red flags. You need to believe in FP2 we didn’t see the real qualifying simulations from the top three as we saw three of the six drivers have accidents.
I believe Ferrari remain behind but closer, this I think is more a Montreal circuit, we don’t know if Lewis Hamilton could have responded as they couldn’t get the run in with the red flags. The reason why Hamilton was unable to do so was because of Valtteri Bottas’s crash.
Following the session, Bottas said he prefers tracks like the Red Bull Ring, where going off-limits punishes errors. We were expecting I feel a close fight, however, the big question as we always say is what happens when they turn it up on Saturday.
Bottas said “It makes a difference. Even though I crashed I do prefer to be penalised for the mistakes. It makes it more exciting. I think that is how it should be and definitely mistakes here cost a lot with aggressive kerbs and minimal run-off and everything.”
Hamilton agreed with his teammate adding “I’m not a big fan of tracks like Paul Ricard, where you do have those run-off areas. I remember back in the day, when I was driving at Spa, going through Pouhon and the outside was gravel in that, it was so scary. The smallest mistake and you can really damage the car.”
You need to hope that Ferrari will be there this weekend, and we get another race like Montreal. The other question for Bottas, how much his accident, as well as the FP1 engine change due to an oil leak, effects the rest of the weekend?
Despite that, Bottas said he was confident he had a good set-up direction for his car. Saying “That compromised first practice a little bit but still found a clear direction on the car set-up and where to go, and made pretty big changes for FP2 and felt a lot better until I had the shunt.”
Ferrari looking OK
Ferrari may look good on paper, with Charles Leclerc more than three-tenths of a second clear of the field as he set the pace in practice, however, Mercedes were unable to set real competitive laps on low fuel and soft tyre run.
Leclerc’s teammate Sebastian Vettel also missed out after spinning and damaging his set of softs, while Max Verstappen had a crash in his Red Bull, robbing him too of a soft tyre, low-fuel run. With all that in mind, the Monacan appeared cautious about Ferrari’s chances of fighting for victory.
He said, “I think they [Mercedes] are still very, very quick, so it’s going to be very difficult when they put everything together. Today the car felt good on our side, so I’m pretty happy. The windy and the conditions, in general, were quite difficult but I think we made the best out of it, and hopefully, we will do the same tomorrow.”
Ferrari carried out a number of test on parts which failed to work last weekend in Paul Ricard, asked about the parts, Leclerc replied: “Well I believe, as I said, that the car felt good, it felt good since the morning.”
It was a more frustrating day for Vettel, who lost the rear of his car at Turn 10, and though he kept the car out of the barriers, he was unable to complete a low-fuel soft tyre run, nor a long run on the softs. He added “Unfortunately we couldn’t get the long run on the softs but apart from that, there was no further impact, the car was fine.
Verstappen blames the wind for crash
Max Verstappen has blamed gusty conditions for his FP2 crash. The Dutchman was caught out by the wind at the final corner and was pitched around and backwards into the barriers badly damaging the rear of the car.
Following the session, Verstappen says it wasn’t the first time he had been grumbling over the team radio beforehand about the conditions. He said “I was already complaining all my laps about the wind. It had been really tricky, and some places I was losing the rear.”
“I got into that corner and then suddenly you can see on the data that the rear turned around. This year, the cars, in general, are more sensitive to the wind, as you can also see with Valtteri [Bottas] who at one point just lost it.”
While the crash left him unable to improve, Verstappen says he was happy with the feel of his car. He says that the team has work to in finding the right balance.
Pierre Gasly had a more encouraging day, as he ended up third quickest overall – just ahead of world championship leader Lewis Hamilton. The Frenchman appeared more upbeat with his running, following a disappointing home race.
He added “We looked good on the fastest times but I think there’s more performance to get out of the package and we [are] still four tenths off of the Ferrari so we’ll try to push, and I’m sure we have a bit more time to come tomorrow. I think there’s more work.”
Technical updates for Ferrari & Red Bull
Ferrari brought a raft of upgrades including a new set of nose-mounted turning vanes in practice for the Austrian Grand Prix in a bid to close the gap to Mercedes and take there first win of the season.
They have added new turning vanes and they sweep in a curve under the side wing, this is an attempt to enhance the overall control over the airflow in that area. Picking up the rotational flow produced by the front wing tips, the air is carried along and then directed out to the bargeboards.
This is also part of the teams’ overall aim of improving overall downforce where Ferrari has struggled. This should also assist with carrying the airflow underneath the nose and bulkhead of the car’s front end.
Red Bull’s attempt in improving downforce sees them revert to the Barcelona style front wing, which Presumably aiming to improve its front end downforce with a more conventional crash structure. However, that may harm the teams front line speed as it creates more drag and harms performance.
The scoop draws in airflow and fires it underneath the nose, aiming to trim off any high-pressure pockets that are generated through boundary layer separation.
Tight midfield pack
As ever the midfield remains as tight as ever, like last weekend in Paul Ricard McLaren appears to be leading the midfield teams, Carlos Sainz in the middle of the top ten. However, we know that McLaren have had the upper hand recently.
We know that group is going to be fighting hard in the race, in FP2 Sainz was only a tenth and a half ahead of the Haas of Romain Grosjean. While 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.
Engine changes hits Sainz the most
Carlos Sainz will start from the back of the grid after he took a complete set of new Renault power unit elements for the first practice. McLaren has opted to switch the Spaniard to the new unit after r Daniel Ricciardo used it in Paul Ricard last weekend.
Sainz is out-of-sync with other Renault users because he had a failure in the Australian GP, and that means all six elements he has taken today are above the FIA maximum limits before penalties set in.
McLaren boss Andreas Seidl admitted at Paul Ricard that penalties would be inevitably for Sainz and that the team had put a lot of thought into the timing, postponing the change from France.
Sedil said “That is, unfortunately, part of the game. But it is the same for the others around. We have seen others are taking penalties already now, so we have to see. In the end, how the regulations are, you need to make a plan of how you’re going to use your engines throughout the season in terms of the modes, mileage and so on to avoid penalties.”
Alex Albon, as already reported has taken the Honda’s latest Spec 3 power unit, with a new V6, MGU-K, MGU-H and turbo, although only the first two are above the limit and trigger penalties. He will thus get a 15-place penalty and is set to start ahead of Sainz.
An oil leak before FP1 means Valtteri Bottas has changed his MGU-K and has no penalty. However, the other elements that went into his Mercedes had already been used.