JULY 3, 2020
Practice 1 Report - Finally
By Dan Knutson
The 2020 Formula 1 season finally got underway with Friday morning’s Free Practice 1 session for the Austrian Grand Prix. And Lewis Hamilton became the first driver to clock the fastest lap time in an official practice session in 2020.
The Red Bull Ring became the 11th track in the 70-year history of Formula 1 to host a season opener. McLaren drivers Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris were the first two drivers out on the track.
“It is good that we are back as drivers and to go back racing and driving a car again,” Norris said the day before. “But is also good for the whole team and everybody in F1 to come back. It’s exciting, now that we are here for me it does not feel like we’ve been away that long. But it has been a long time and I have missed driving the F1 car and working with the team and the mechanics and everyone. So it’s nice to be back!”
It had rained earlier in the morning, and there were still a few damp spots on the track as the drivers did their installation laps in the early minutes of the 90-minute session. And there were a few spots of rain, but not enough to warrant rain tires. Some drivers tried the intermediate Pirelli wet weather tires, but the track was not wet enough for those either.
Hamilton set the early pace with a lap of 1:06.994 in his Mercedes on the hard compound Pirelli slicks. He then improved that to a 1:06.547.
Halfway through the session all the drivers had switched to slicks. It was busy out on the track with all the drivers trying to get in as many laps as possible after so many months away from the action.
Racing Point’s Sergio Perez used the soft Pirellis to take the lead with a 1:06.052 followed by a 1:05.889 just past the midpoint of the session. Then Valtteri Bottas, with the soft slicks on his Mercedes, beat that with his 1:05.486.
With 31 minutes left in FP1, Hamilton used to soft Pirellis to clock a 1:04.968 and then a 1:04.816. The order was now Hamilton, Bottas, Perez, Norris, Lance Stroll (Racing Point) and Daniel Ricciardo (Renault). Then Sainz popped up to third and Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) to sixth.
Max Verstappen, who won the previous two races in Austria in his Red Bull, had a quick spin in Turn 1. His next lap was more successful as he moved up to third place.
But nobody was able to displace Hamilton and Bottas from the top two spots as the session wound down.
The top 10 of the “finally” FP1 were: Hamilton, Bottas, Verstappen, Sainz, Perez, Norris, Alex Albon (Red Bull), Ricciardo, Kevin Magnussen (Haas) and Leclerc.