Austrian Grand Prix – Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton has singled out Ferrari as looking particularly fast at the Red Bull Ring, after Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc showed strong pace in practice.
The fastest times of Friday’s running were set during the morning session at the Austrian circuit, with the afternoon proving to be trickier driving conditions as the wind picked up.
Hamilton set the fastest of Friday’s running with a 1:04.838 but, importantly, this time was set on the Soft compound tyres. Sebastian Vettel did a 1:04.982 but this time was set on the Medium compound. With Pirelli saying that there is an expected 0.7 second time delta between the compounds, this puts the Ferrari on a theoretical 1:04.2, while Hamilton’s fastest time, delta adjusted, is 1:04.3 from his Hard tyre 1:05.5 in FP2.
Hamilton said that, while he suffered some damage during practice after hitting the raised sausage kerbs quite hard, the day was straightforward enough: “It was a clean day for me with no major issues, although I broke a couple of front wings on the kerbs like a lot of other drivers. We are flat out for a large portion of the lap this year – even corners like Turns 6 and 7, Turn 9 and the last corner are seriously quick in these cars – and we have been tickling the set-up all day to improve it.”
Highlighting Ferrari’s speed at a circuit that plays to the Scuderia’s strengths, Hamilton said: “Ferrari and Red Bull look quick, particularly Ferrari, and it will be interesting to see how it pans out tomorrow. This is one of those circuits where the times are always very, very close and small margins make the difference; that’s a positive because it means we will have our work cut out. But that’s okay: we will keep fighting and this is a circuit where you can follow other cars, so hopefully the tyres will be durable as well.”
Merc’s Andrew Shovlin said that the team’s outright pace doesn’t seem quite as imperious as in France last weekend: “Lewis was working on the Soft and Hard tyres and managed to complete the planned programme. We don’t seem to be as competitive here as in France but that’s not a big surprise; we’re missing the kind of cornering sequences that the car likes, so it’s hard to pull back all the time that they are finding on the straights. We’re expecting the weather to get even hotter, which isn’t easy for the car or the tyres but hopefully it will make for an interesting race for the fans.”