Styrian GP: Verstappen tops timesheets in potentially crucial Friday practice

Max Verstappen finished on top of the lap times in what could turn out to be a crucial Friday free practice session for the Styrian GP (renamed to differentiate from last week’s event) with torrential rain forecast overnight and into Saturday.

The weather system in the Styrian Mountains forms a microclimate unto itself, much like at Spa-Francorchamps in the Ardennes. And with teams having completed data evaluation and long runs in FP1 and the majority of FP2, there was the knowledge that some qualifying style runs on the softest red compound Pirelli tyre could count for something come Sunday.

And it was the Dutchman, who suffered an unfortunate DNF in Austria last weekend, who had the bit between his teeth, a 1m03.660s mark bettering last week’s race winner Valtteri Bottas by .043s – the impressive Racing Points of Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll finishing third and fourth quickest respectively.

“It’s been a promising day. We’ve been chipping away and learning about our car, and that’s been positive so far – exploring where we can make improvements and find performance,” said Perez. “It’s very close among the top teams, but we’ve shown that both cars are in the mix for points, just like we were last weekend. Obviously, there’s signs of wet weather tomorrow so let’s wait and see what happens in Qualifying.”

Carlos Sainz’s McLaren was next in the time charts, ahead of a strangely out of sorts Lewis Hamilton, who could only manage a 1m04.348s, ahead of Alex Albon and the second McLaren of Lando Norris, who was handed a three-place grid penalty for overtaking under yellow flag conditions.

The session was not without incident, outgoing Renault driver Daniel Ricciardo limping away from a heavy impact after losing control of his car and going backwards into the barriers at Turn 9.

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.