Formula 1 News

Mercedes dominate practice in Austria

Hamilton topped the times during the afternoon session ahead of his teammate and Fernando Alonso on board of his Ferrari.
Friday, June 20, 2014

SPIELBERG BEI KNITTELFELD, Austria, June 20, 2014 (AFP) - Formula One leaders Mercedes showed they were undaunted by a new track Friday, dominating the first practice sessions ahead of Sunday's returning Austrian Grand Prix.

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Lewis Hamilton set the fastest lap of the day at one minute and 9.542 seconds, finishing 0.377 seconds ahead of teammate and current championship leader Nico Rosberg in the second practice session.

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In the morning, it was Rosberg who had led the field ahead of Hamilton around the 4.3-kilometre Red Bull Ring track.

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The two Mercedes drivers were the only ones to dip below the 1min 10sec mark, showing they were at ease on the historic Spielberg track, despite this being their first F1 outing on it.

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The last time Spielberg hosted a Formula One event was in 2003 so Friday's free practice was the drivers' first real opportunity to get to know the track and gather information ahead of Sunday's race.

Prior experience indeed seemed to play a major role with Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa and Jenson Button -- all of whom raced here a decade ago -- clocking some of the fastest times behind Mercedes.

But drivers have insisted their initial lack of knowledge will hardly matter once the first practice sessions are done and dusted.

Ferrari's Alonso was closest to Mercedes's times in both sessions on Friday but still 0.928 seconds behind Hamilton in his fastest lap.

Felipe Massa was fourth and fifth fastest.

Red Bull meanwhile struggled despite racing at home, with four-time champion Sebastian Vettel and Canadian Grand Prix winner Daniel Ricciardo setting just the sixth and eighth fastest times, over 1.2 seconds behind Hamilton.

Even that was an improvement on the morning session, when they finished 15th and 13th.

Following Ricciardo's victory two weeks ago -- which broke Mercedes's six-race winning streak -- Red Bull were hoping to use their home advantage in Austria to narrow the gap on their archrivals.

Mercedes however still have a 119-point lead on the Austrian team in the constructors' standings and showed on Friday that their power problems from Montreal were behind them.

"Good practice session today! Need to take this into tomorrow for qualifying," Hamilton tweeted after the sessions.

"Already after the first few laps I was feeling comfortable and always seemed to be finding time with new lines and improvements," he also said.

"To be as quick as I was considering others have already driven this track is a great feeling."

But he warned he would still have to push hard both in Saturday's qualifying and in Sunday's race to stay ahead of Rosberg: "I'm sure he's got some time in his pocket."

The German meanwhile confirmed that the internal Mercedes race was still as hot as ever: "There is still some lap time to find compared to my teammate."

"A lot of work tonight is going to be required for me to really sort everything out... My car was bouncing a lot down the straights and that continued into the braking zones. Bouncing and braking is never a good thing, so we need to look into that and try to find out what I can do better."

But he agreed: "It was a good day. We learned a lot of things."

One of the most dramatic scenes on Friday saw Vettel go into a spin after going wide in the last turn leading into the final straight.

He was not the only one to get caught in that tricky corner, as Ricciardo and Lotus driver Romain Grosjean also bit into the side of the track.

Caterham and Sauber meanwhile encountered serious technical problems, with Caterham driver Marcus Ericsson's car having to be lifted off the track in the morning after it apparently "switched itself off."

Drivers had to struggle with light rainy conditions and strong winds on Friday, meaning the third and last practice session on Saturday -- when the weather is expected to clear -- will be vital as race day weather is expected to be sunny.

The times for the afternoon session:

Pos No Driver Team Time/Retired Gap Laps
1 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:09.542 37
2 6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:09.919 0.377 50
3 14 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:10.470 0.928 40
4 77 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 1:10.519 0.977 44
5 19 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1:10.521 0.979 39
6 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:10.807 1.265 39
7 22 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:10.813 1.271 44
8 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:10.920 1.378 36
9 20 Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Mercedes 1:10.936 1.394 45
10 25 Jean-Eric Vergne STR-Renault 1:10.972 1.430 39
11 7 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:10.974 1.432 45
12 26 Daniil Kvyat STR-Renault 1:11.261 1.719 45
13 11 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1:11.296 1.754 36
14 21 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1:11.491 1.949 42
15 13 Pastor Maldonado Lotus-Renault 1:11.765 2.223 30
16 99 Adrian Sutil Sauber-Ferrari 1:11.806 2.264 42
17 27 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1:11.935 2.393 39
18 4 Max Chilton Marussia-Ferrari 1:12.229 2.687 43
19 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:12.262 2.720 46
20 17 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Ferrari 1:12.279 2.737 36
21 10 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham-Renault 1:12.937 3.395 24
22 9 Marcus Ericsson Caterham-Renault 1:13.596 4.054 48

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