Verstappen Paces Tight Practice In Austria

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Max Verstappen was fastest in Friday's Formula One practice for the Grand Prix of Styria. (Mark Thompson/Getty Images Photo)
Max Verstappen was fastest in Friday's Formula One practice for the Grand Prix of Styria. (Mark Thompson/Getty Images Photo)

SPIELBURG, Austria – Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen led the way during the opening day of practice for the second Formula One event of the season, the Styrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring.

Verstappen’s Red Bull Honda topped the combined practice charts with a best lap of 1:03.660, which put him .043 of a second clear of Austrian Grand Prix winner Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes.

“The car already feels better than last week, the balance is a lot nicer to drive and we have made a good step,” said Verstappen, who failed to finish the Austrian Grand Prix after a mechanical failure. “It is only Friday practice and of course it is too early to say how we are looking against Mercedes, but from our side I think we are quite happy. We have tried a few different directions to understand the car a bit more and I think we are heading the right way which I’m pleased about. We have to see what will happen tomorrow with the weather but otherwise we will find out where we really are on Sunday. Normally our race pace is more competitive but already over one lap we can’t complain and actually the 11 laps I did in last week’s race didn’t look too bad, so it can only get better. Even if tomorrow the weather is too bad for qualifying I expect we will still have Sunday morning to do it, so I don’t expect to be on pole position with this lap.”

Racing Point’s Sergio Perez turned heads Friday, pacing the first practice and then going third fastest in the second practice and overall. He was .217 of a second shy of the fast lap put down by Verstappen.

Lance Stroll, aboard the second Racing Point entry, was fourth fastest overall. McLaren’s Carlos Sainz Jr. was fifth fastest, followed by Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes, Red Bull’s Alexander Albon, McLaren’s Lando Norris, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Renault’s Esteban Ocon.

The only major incident during either practice was a big crash by Daniel Ricciardo’s Renault in turn nine. He was able to walk away from the crash and has been cleared by doctors to race on Sunday.