Austrian GP - Friday - Practice Session 1 Report

The fastest ever

Lewis Hamilton, Austrian GP 2017

Lewis Hamilton, Austrian GP 2017 

 © RV Press


By Dan Knutson in Spielberg

Lewis Hamilton has clocked the fastest lap time ever at the A1-Ring in its current layout. His lap time of 1:05.975 in FP1 beat the previous fastest of 1:06.228, which he also set, in FP2 last year. These are unofficial lap times, of course, and Michael Schumacher owns the race lap record of 1:08.337 set in 2003.

The ambient temperature at the start of the 90-minute session was 72 degrees Fahrenheit (22 degrees Centigrade) and the track temperature was 91 degrees Fahrenheit (33 degrees Centigrade).

The lineup for the weekend was: Mercedes - Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas; Red Bull TAG Heuer - Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen; Ferrari - Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen; Force India Mercedes - Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon; Williams Mercedes - Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll; McLaren Honda - Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne; Renault - Nico Hulkenberg and Jolyon Palmer; Toro Rosso Renault - Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz; Haas Ferrari - Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen; Sauber Ferrari - Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein.

FP1 test drivers in Austria were Alfonso Celis in Perez's Force India, and Sergey Sirotkin in Hulkenberg's Renault.

The FIA has decided that the gentle swerve after Turn 1 is now Turn 2, so the 2.683-mile [4.318 km] track now has 10 turns instead of nine.

Last year, Nico Rosberg smashed the lap record around the A1-Ring in Free Practice 1 for the Austrian Grand Prix. He clocked a 1:07.644 in his Mercedes. Rosberg set his time using Pirelli's ultra soft compound slicks.

Pirelli's compounds this year were the ultra soft, super soft and soft.

Sirotkin, Ericsson and Palmer were the first out to do their installation laps.

Verstappen, on the soft tires, clocked the first lap time of the day; 1:09.481. He kept lapping and soon was down to a 1:08.429. That remained the only lap time posted for the first 19 minutes until Baku podium finisher Stroll put in a 1:10.971 on the super soft tires.

Eventually more drivers started lapping including Raikkonen who had a spin at Turn 1. "My tires are done," he radioed of his flat-spotted super softs.

Bottas was on the ultras when he turned a 1:07.591 at the 26-minute mark. So he was already below the time set a year ago by the driver he replaced. Hamilton beat that with a 1:07.469.

Vettel, meanwhile, had spun at Turn 1 and was rolling backwards down the track. "No damage, just a spin, I clipped the inside curb," was his message to the Ferrari pit.

Now Bottas was flying, and he set a 1:06.845. Stroll had a spin in Turn 9, and Hamilton was down to a 1:06.957 on the ultras.

Vettel was on the super softs when he took the lead with a 1:06.826 just past the 30-minute mark. Hamilton topped that with a 1:06.526. Verstappen went off at Turn 7 and skimmed the wall.

At the 40-minute break, when each driver must hand back a set of tires to Pirelli, the top 10 were: Hamilton, Vettel, Bottas, Verstappen, Verstappen, Kvyat, Ricciardo, Vandoorne, Massa, Ocon and Alonso.

Everybody headed for the pits, but Raikkonen soon headed back out on the super softs and moved up to fourth place before pitting. Once again peace fell on the track until Stroll broke it with 36 minutes remaining in FP1.

Things got busy in the final 30 minutes. Bottas ran the super softs to run a 1:06.345. Hamilton was second with his 1:06.449 on the softs, and Ricciardo third with a 1:06.620 on the supers.

Bottas then had a spin at the slippery Turn 1, followed by Hamilton getting down to a 1:06.329 on his softs. He followed that up with a 1:05.975.

Vettel was now up to third ahead of Ricciardo.

Now, with 15 minutes remaining, everybody was once again in the pit garages. When they returned to the track, Verstappen finally got in a clean run and jumped up to third with a 1:06.406 on the super softs. Then he got second with a 1:06.276 followed by a 1:06.165 followed by a spin.

The top 10 at the end of FP1 were: Hamilton, Verstappen, Bottas, Vettel, Ricciardo, Raikkonen, Vandoorne, Kvyat, Alonso and Ocon.

Given that Hamilton's time was on the soft compound Pirellis, that fastest ever label is going to be even faster once the ultra soft tires are used by the top teams.

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