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Austrian GP 2016

JULY 1, 2016

Practice 2 Report - Rosberg Rains

Nico Rosberg, Austrian GP 2016
© Active Pictures

 

By Dan Knutson in Spielberg

Nico Rosberg reigned in Free Practice 2 for the Austrian Grand Prix as he got in the fastest lap time in the first few minutes of the session before the rain started to fall. Many a driver had not got up to speed before the track got slick, but many did so after it dried again before the end of the session. Still, Rosberg stayed in front and showed that he was quick, just as he had been when he topped FP1.

The ambient temperature at the start of the 90-minute session was 75 degrees Fahrenheit (24 degrees Centigrade) and the track temperature was 109 degrees Fahrenheit (43 degrees Centigrade.)

The line-up for the weekend was: Mercedes - Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. Ferrari - Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen. Williams Mercedes - Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas. Red Bull TAG Heuer - Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen. Force India Mercedes - Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez. Renault - Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer. Toro Rosso Ferrari - Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz. Sauber Ferrari - Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr. McLaren Honda - Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button. Manor Mercedes - Pascal Wehrlein and Rio Haryanto. Haas Ferrari - Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez.

Rosberg had clocked a 1:07.373 in Free Practice 1. It was the fastest lap ever around the 9-turn A1 Ring where the official lap record of 1:08.337 was set by Michael Schumacher in 2003.

Alonso and Grosjean got things going. And Rosberg quickly got going as he posted a 1:07.967 on the super soft Pirellis.

There was a 40 percent chance of rain, and dark clouds were looming, so the drivers were anxious to get in as many laps as possible before the track (possibly) got wet.

Raikkonen got off the track at Turn 5 and ran through the gravel before getting back on the still dry black stuff.

But it didn't stay dry for long as rain started to fall on the final sector of the track about seven minutes into the session. Grosjean, Haryanto, Palmer, Button and others spun at Turn 8 where the rain was now really pounding down.

All the drivers drove carefully back to the pits. Soon strong winds started to lash the rain around the circuit. Yet blue skies could still be seen in some areas.

No driver had completed over seven laps at this stage. The running order was: Rosberg, Vettel, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Hamilton, Alonso, Bottas, Wehrlein, Sainz, Button, Grosjean, Magnussen, Palmer, Nasr, Perez, Haryanto, Ericsson, Gutierrez, Kvyat, Massa, Raikkonen and Verstappen. The latter was the only driver yet to turn a lap.

With an hour left in FP2 the rain had stopped falling and blue skies were moving in. Soon it was sunny again. But none of the drivers showed any inclination to go out on the still wet track on rain tires.

Finally, with 44 minutes remaining, some action as Ricciardo fishtailed out of the garages and ventured out on Pirelli's intermediate rain tires. Verstappen did the same as did other drivers.

Some corners were already completely dry, others were still wet. The drivers were putting in laps in the 1:20 range. Soon just about all the drivers were on track and on the inters. With rain forecast for qualifying, the drivers needed to sample the wet track.

With 30 minutes remaining, sector 2 was nearly dry but the other two track sectors were still wet.

Six minutes later everybody was in the pits except Perez who clocked a 1:15.902 on worn inters before he too pitted.

With 20 minutes remaining, Vettel ventured out on Pirelli's soft compound slicks. Several others also tried the slicks. Ricciardo, on the ultra softs, moved into third place with a 1:08.649. Hamilton used the same spec tires to take over second place with a 1:07.986, a mere 0.019 slower than Rosberg. Vettel then clocked a 1:08.589. Others also improved including Hulkenberg.

In the final couple of minutes Vettel spun off at Turn 2 and into the gravel trap.

The top 10 at the end of FP2 were: Rosberg, Hamilton, Hulkenberg, Vettel, Ricciardo, Sainz, Verstappen, Raikkonen, Bottas and Button.