Max Verstappen tops practice standings at Austrian Grand Prix

Max Verstappen tops practice standings at Austrian Grand Prix

Max Verstappen led the way in opening practice for the Austrian Grand Prix.

The world champion finished three tenths clear of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, with George Russell and Lewis Hamilton third and fifth respectively. Sergio Perez split the Mercedes machines.

Verstappen holds a 34-point lead in his bid to win consecutive titles, and the Red Bull driver – at the team’s home race here in Spielberg – appears the man to beat.

The round in Austria is effectively a home race for Verstappen, too, after 60,000 fans travelled from the Netherlands to support him with the majority dressed in orange.

While Verstappen set the pace, Lando Norris was forced to jump out of his overheating McLaren.

The British driver pulled to the side of the track before reporting: “I’m on fire. I need to stop. It is smoking from under my seat.”

The running was suspended for five minutes as Norris’s wounded vehicle was removed from danger. The failure comes as a blow to Norris with Friday’s one-hour running providing the sole action before qualifying at 5pm local time (4pm UK).

Qualifying takes place this evening ahead of Saturday’s sprint race which determines the grid for Sunday’s main event.

The action was red-flagged for a second time with 22 minutes remaining to remove debris between Turns 6 and 7. The delays denied teams as much time as they would want for qualifying simulations.

Behind Verstappen, Mercedes will take some encouragement from their pace with Russell 0.4 seconds behind and Hamilton a further two tenths back.

Five days after his horror crash at Silverstone, Zhou Guanyu was back in his Alfa Romeo cockpit and he finished 18th of the 20 runners.

The London-born Alex Albon, who was taken to hospital for precautionary checks after he was caught up in the wake of Zhou’s first-corner accident, was 15th for Williams.

Published: by Radio NewsHub
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