Hamilton Takes Austrian GP Practice Sessions; Penalized For Qualifying
SPIELBERG, Austria—R.I.S.--Lewis Hamilton had no time forgetting his last encounter with rival Sebastian Vettel, as the Briton took both Friday practice sessions for Sunday’s Grand Prix of Austria at the Red Bull Ring.
Hamilton clocked the fastest time of the day in the afternoon, with a record breaking 1:05:483, which was 0.147 seconds quicker than Vettel. Unfortunately for the Mercedes driver, a faulty spark plug had to be fixed during that afternoon run, which occurred in an old engine that will not be used for the rest of the weekend. Once the plug was fixed, Hamilton returned to the track, and quickly radioed back that there was something wrong with his car. Hamilton returned to the pits once again, and did not complete any more laps before the session ended.
However, considering he lost a good total of 17 laps of good practice, Hamilton still had enough of an appropriate run early in the session of take the day’s best time. But Hamilton suffered a huge blow for Saturday’s qualifying because of an illegal gearbox change. Five grid positions will be issued to the Briton, no matter how far up the grid he qualifies. The gearbox itself should last at least six consecutive races, according to the rules, and this incident will make Hamilton’s chance of winning on Sunday very difficult to do.
Valterri Bottas chances improved as the second Mercedes driver finished the third best time behind Hamilton and Vettel. The two Red Bulls, especially fourth best Max Verstappen, who had to encounter staying in the garage due to a loose brake connector and then returned to the pits to set up the car. Daniel Ricciardo was next, but ended early despite his fifth place with an MGU-H failure.
Sixth place Kimi Raikkonen was slow to start in his Ferrari, but began to rifle off fast laps, but were not good enough to be along with the top contenders. Fernando Alonso gave his McLaren-Honda some hope for the week, placing eighth, while Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg continued to be in the top ten, taking ninth.
As for the American Haas F1 Team, Kevin Magnussen continued to set decent enough times after his excellent placing at the last race in Azerbaijan, taking seventh. His teammate, Romain Grosjean, was the last of the top ten best times in the two practice sessions.
Despite the changing weather conditions of showery periods, the only major incident of the day was Spaniard Carlos Sainz Jr., who ran his car wide at turn nine and flew into the air. Trying to rejoin the track from the grassy area, the car landed violently with the bottom part of the Toro Rosso heavily damaged, leaking fluid, and ending the day for Sainz Jr., who just announced earlier in the day, a contract extension with his current team.
A 16 year veteran of writing formula one racing weekend race reports, features and team launches, Mark has worked for such companies as all-sports, e-sports, The Munich Eye newspaper in Germany, racingnation.com and Autoweek. A former member for this site four years ago, Mark now is a contributor for R.I.S.