Lewis Hamilton led the way in both Friday practice sessions for the Formula 1 Austrian Grand Prix on Friday at the Red Bull Ring, the reigning world champion ahead of Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas in second.
The Silver Arrows have won all four Austrian events since the country made a return to F1 in 2014, and it doesn’t look as though their 100 percent win rate is at risk on pure speed.
Hamilton himself has only one victory to his name in Austria, a total matched by Bottas in the 2017 edition, but the No. 44 Mercedes had things under control on Friday in terms of outright pace.
“It’s been a good day so far, pretty straightforward with no real issues,” Hamilton said. “There are not many corners here in Austria. It’s a very fast track and it’s very close between all the tires. The harder tire seems to be the better one for me.”
This was also the first day that Mercedes rolled out a feared technical upgrade for its car, and it seemed to work as intended.
“It’s really great to see the updates. The guys at the factory have been working so hard to bring quality components,” Hamilton said. “The car feels better in certain areas around the track, which is already a step forward from last week. The car felt immediately better coming out of the garage in FP1 and also at the start at FP2.
“It got a little worse during the afternoon session, and we will try to figure out why in the debrief, but the car does feel good overall, so I’m sure we can rectify it. I’m going to keep pushing, trying to maximize a bit more out of it.”
While Mercedes looked strongest on their one-lap pace, it was Ferrari and specifically Sebastian Vettel who showed the best long run pace. Essentially, when things are round this way and it is likely the quicker race car won’t start at the front, the racing is close and entertaining. With three DRS zones around the track, overtaking shouldn’t be as rare as in recent races either.
“We can always improve, but today I’m happy,” said Vettel. “The car was pretty good, so we’ll see what we can do tomorrow. On this track, it is true that the curbs can be aggressive somehow, but today we didn’t have any issues and hopefully we won’t have problems tomorrow and in the race. We did a lot of laps, which is good, and usually on Saturday we can make a good step forward, so we should be well prepared for tomorrow and for Sunday.”