Another difficult day for Mercedes at the Red Bull Ring in Austria, for the first of two raace weekends in Styria. Both Friday's free practice sessions' were topped by Max Verstappen, who is also currently leading both drivers and constructors championship.
Lewis Hamilton closed the first practice session in third, following Honda powered Verstappen and Pierre Gasly in the AlphaTauri; in the afternoon the seven time world champion was hoping for the rain, which might actually come during the weekend, but the session stayied dry and Sir Lewis clocked the fastest time overall - 0.077s faster than Max's time - but it was deleted as the W12 number 44 crossed track limits in turn 10.
"Overall, a work in progress - it’s been a beautiful day, a few drops of rain at the start of the second session but the track is awesome" said Sir Lewis at the end of the day.
"We’re a little bit down, particularly over a single lap, but generally the car felt relatively solid. I’m happy with where we’ve got the car to, I’ve been working hard all week trying to figure out where I want the car and I hope the hard work starts paying off soon. Red Bull are throwing some good punches at the moment so we’ve just got to have our guard up and make sure we’re ready for the return".
Mercedes focused its work on long runs instead of fastest lap, to help increase the team strength in the race. Traffic and track limits might affect qualifying and the catch for pole, something which is now out of chance for Valtteri Bottas.
The Brackley team - after another conversation around pit-stops which needs to be slower in order to be safer - tried another solutions for the stops, making the drivers start in second gear instead of first, but also trying to rub the tarmac outside the garage. The Finn came back in the pits during FP2, changing softs for heard, but as soos as he left the pit he lost control of his car, spinning in the pit- lane in front of the McLaren garage.
Luckily, no one from the Woking team was in the way, as everyone was almost inside the box, so no one was harmed; instead MCL mechaniocs helped Bottas turn his car to come back on his way out on track. Because of this, Bottas earned a three place grid penalty, meaning he is out of the catch for pole.
"FP1 felt overall a bit better but in FP2, we had just one run with lower fuel and that was a little messy so the lap time on the board was nothing amazing," said Bottas, who put himself in 4th in FP1, just behide his team mate, while he was only 12th in the afternoon.
"But the focus for today was on the long runs, trying to find the long run performance - we prioritised that well today and hopefully that will pay off on Sunday. Lewis and I were running quite different set-ups so we have lots to analyse tonight to find the best bits to take into qualifying and the race".