Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton posted the fastest time ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in the first practice session for the Austrian Grand Prix on Friday.
The British driver’s best lap was 0.19 seconds quicker than Verstappen, who also did well in practice for the Azerbaijan GP two weeks ago. Hamilton’s teammate, Valtteri Bottas, was third quickest at 0.37 behind. The Finnish driver twice span his car on the tricky Turn One.
Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel, who was fourth, and Kimi Raikkonen, sixth behind Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, also had minor problems. Vettel span after clipping the kerb at Turn One and Raikkonen headed back to the garage early on with tire problems.
The picturesque Spielberg track, nestled amid rolling hills and forests, seemed slippery despite warm morning temperatures. Verstappen, Haas driver Romain Grosjean, and Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz Jr. wobbled on Turn One as did Hamilton late on in the session.
In a rare boost for struggling McLaren, Stoffel Vandoorne and Fernando Alonso placed inside the top 10. There is a second practice on Friday afternoon. The build-up to the race was overshadowed by the bitter fallout from the heated Vettel-Hamilton clash in Azerbaijan.
Two weeks ago in Baku, an irate Vettel swerved into Hamilton, albeit at slow speed, because he thought the British driver slammed his brakes on recklessly late, right in front of him, seconds earlier.
Vettel was given a time penalty during that race but escaped further punishment from the FIA, motor sport’s governing body, following a hearing on Monday.
At a packed news conference Thursday, Vettel made a full apology which Hamilton accepted _ although he maintained the German driver should have been further punished over the incident.
Both said the matter is closed. In the championship standings, four-time champion Vettel leads three-time champion Hamilton by 14 points after eight races.