Paul Ricard winner Max Verstappen was straight back on it as the Styrian Grand Prix weekend got under way, comfortably heading a warm and dry Free Practice 1 at the Red Bull Ring, ahead of an impressive Pierre Gasly for AlphaTauri, as Lewis Hamilton slotted into P3 for Mercedes.
Having led the field after the initial medium and hard-tyre runs, Verstappen bolted a set of soft tyres onto his Red Bull halfway through the 60-minute FP1 session before clocking the benchmark time of 1m 05.910s around the 4.3km Red Bull Ring track.
Gasly, too, had been quick early on in the session, and managed to transfer that form into his soft tyre run, ending up in P2, 0.256s off Verstappen – the Honda power unit in Verstappen and Gasly’s cars clearly doing good work along the Red Bull Ring’s three long straights.
More critically, the best Red Bull’s rivals Mercedes could manage in FP1 was Hamilton’s third place – but the seven-time champion was a full 0.422s off Verstappen’s time, a significant gap over such a short lap, while Valtteri Bottas was narrowly behind his team mate in P4.
FORMULA 1 BWT GROSSER PREIS DER STEIERMARK 2021
Practice 1 results
|1 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing||1:05.910|
|2 Pierre GASLY AlphaTauri||+0.256s|
|3 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes||+0.422s|
|4 Valtteri BOTTAS Mercedes||+0.476s|
|5 Yuki TSUNODA AlphaTauri||+0.487s|
Confirming AlphaTauri’s pace, Yuki Tsunoda – who claimed pole position here in F2 last year – took P5, ahead of the Alpine pairing of Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon in sixth and seventh. Lance Stroll showed some decent one-lap pace early doors for Aston Martin to take eighth, with Antonio Giovinazzi ninth in the leading Alfa Romeo.
After their nightmare point-less race at the French Grand Prix, 10th was the best that Ferrari could manage, Charles Leclerc claiming it by just 0.001s from Carlos Sainz in 11th – Sainz complaining early on of throttle issues, before spinning his car across the track at Turn 1, and briefly blocking the path of Bottas as the Finn was emerging from the pits.
P12 went the way of Daniel Ricciardo – as McLaren team mate Lando Norris could do no better than 16th – with Sergio Perez, who also had a spin at Turn 4, a relatively long way off his Red Bull team mate Verstappen in P13, ahead of the Aston Martin of Sebastian Vettel.
George Russell was 15th in the leading Williams FW43B, ahead of Norris – those two the last drivers within a second of Verstappen’s session-leading time in the tightly-bunched field – with Nicholas Latifi 1.270s off the leading pace in 17th for Williams.
Mick Schumacher was Haas’ leading light in P18, ahead of the Alfa Romeo of Robert Kubica, who took over Kimi Raikkonen’s C41 this morning before almost immediately spinning it Turn 3, and ending up 19th, ahead of the second Haas of Nikita Mazepin, 2.171s off the pace.
So, it looks to be Verstappen comfortably ahead of the field as the Styrian Grand Prix weekend gets up and running. But with storm clouds lurking around the Red Bull Ring, will rain come this afternoon and disrupt the order? Tune into F1.com’s coverage to find out.