During the FP1 of the Styrian GP, Max Verstappen set the fastest time of 1:05.910s, followed by Pierre Gasly and Lewis Hamilton and their times of 1:06.166s and 1:06.332s respectively. Just behind them, the rest that completed the top 10 were: Bottas, Tsunoda, Alonso, Ocon, Stroll, Giovinazzi and Leclerc.
The time has come and we entered the second race of the triple header, which began with the French GP at Paul Ricard, and moved into the beautiful scenery of the Styrian hills. Shortly before the start of the free practice, it was announced that later during the season we will see a comeback of the Istanbul City Park, replacing the Singapore GP which has been cancelled due to the current situation with the pandemic.
The session began with the track temp of 46 degrees and rising, some clouds hanging around and the 40% possibility of rain. Most of the drivers got out on the track in the first minutes of the session. Quickly into the session we’ve seen a yellow flag, caused by Kubica’s spin (who replaced Raikkonen for FP1), but he was able to immediately rejoin on the track and continue.
After the first 10 minutes of the session, the top 10 were: Verstappen, with the time of 1:06.963s followed by Hamilton, Perez, Leclerc, Ricciardo, Norris, Giovinazzi, Alonso, Stroll and Vettel. So far the drivers went out to mostly explore the track and their tyre compounds, because they change from weekend to weekend - the ones available for the Styrian GP will be different than the ones prepared for the Austrian GP. A few drivers travelled a little bit outside of the track limits, that resulted in some of the times being deleted, but beside this and the brief yellow flag it was all within “safety” during this part of the session.
So far we could’ve observed a very strong performance of the Red Bull cars (both RB and Alpha Tauri), as well as the McLaren’s and the Alpine’s, which has seen both of their drivers Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso in top 10 during the first stages of the session. It seems that with every GP both Alonso and Ocon are getting a progressively better grip on their machinery, with some strong point finishes for the team during this season already. So far we’ve also seen strong improvement from Aston Martin, who in the first half an hour of the session were able to stick somewhere in the lower parts of the top ten.
35 minutes into the session we’ve got our second yellow flag, after Sainz in Ferrari spun and stopped at the exit of the pitlane. He was able to rejoin the track pretty fast and continue with his session. Afterwards, it was Hamilton who set the fastest time of the session, with 1:06.390s. His teammate Bottas, at that time of the free practice, was only able to get into 4th place. We’ve also seen the Ferrari’s struggle a little bit, with Leclerc being only 13th and Sainz stuck on 16th place. Hopefully later in the weekend the team from Maranello will be able to pick up some better pace.
20 minutes before the end of the session, it was Verstappen with the fastest time of 1:05.910s. On second we’ve got Gasly, followed by Hamilton, Bottas, Tsunoda, Alonso, Ocon, Stroll, Giovinazzi and Leclerc. Although the results of the weekend are decided on Sunday, the first session has already shown that Red Bull Ring is a “Red Bull Ring” for a reason - three out of four Red Bull cars sat comfortably in the top 5 of the grid. It will definitely be a hard task for any other team to challenge the Bulls at their home track. Interestingly, the places between P1 and P16 were all in less than 1 second of a gap, which could get anybody excited for the main event of this racing weekend.
The final classification after the first free practice session of the Styrian GP: