Report | Hamilton bounces back by topping FP2 in Austria

02-07-2021 15:00
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Report | Hamilton bounces back by topping FP2 in Austria

Lewis Hamilton has topped the second practice session ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix, with Valtteri Bottas completing a Mercedes one-two. Max Verstappen rounded out the top three and was just 0.217 seconds behind his title rival. The session saw plenty of surprises on the leaderboard, with the midfield turned upside down. 

In this session, each team had to complete at least 12 timed laps on the Pirelli prototype tyre which they hope to introduce in a couple of weeks time following the tyre failures during the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Pirelli requested these test tyre laps to ran under low fuel levels, medium fuel levels and a full tank. 

The hour-long event saw plenty of different drivers challenge for the top five places. With the track being short, very little time separated the field. The race simulations took place in the final 20 minutes in very light rain conditions. 

Christian Horner suggested that Mercedes had increased their engine modes for their fastest run in the qualifying simulations, but it looks as if Mercedes have either made performance gains during the week, or the track conditions better suit them. The conditions were cooler than last week, and the Pirelli tyres are a step softer. Four of the top five cars were running with a Mercedes engine as Aston Martin filled P4 and P5. 

Busy start

With the Pirelli laps to complete and three drivers starting their first session of the weekend, the track became busy very quickly. There was also a threat of rain at the start of the session, which Carlos Sainz raised on the Ferrari radio. 

After the first flurry of laps, Verstappen led the way with a 1:05.773 using the test tyre. Under the medium tyre for this weekend, Bottas went fastest by 0.107 seconds. At this point, AlphaTauri looked strong again around the Red Bull Ring with both drivers inside the top five. 

Midfield upside down

Ferrari looked strong in the early part of the session whilst their McLaren rivals could only just climb into the top 15. However, this performance wasn't sustained as other drivers posted their laps. McLaren never troubled the top of the timesheets either. 

As the works Ferrari struggled, the Alfa Romeo customer team looked stronger. Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi sat comfortably inside the top 10 after the first 20 minutes which the Italian driver was able to sustain. After 25 minutes, Verstappen and Perez sat at the top of the timesheets. 

Furthers surprises were found in the Aston Martin garage. On the soft tyres, Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll were also able to move up into the top five. Perez, who also ran on the soft tyres, was slower. The AlphaTauri drivers also look to continue their impressive qualifying pace in the Styrian Grand Prix, with both Tsunoda and Gasly inside the top 10. 

Mercedes take it up a gear

Bottas was the first driver on the soft tyres for the qualifying simulations. He went fastest by almost half a second. Both Verstappen and Hamilton completed their soft tyre qualifying run within a few seconds of each other. Hamilton came out on top by 0.217 seconds over his rival, though Verstappen ran wide. 

More raindrops fell in the second half of the session. It didn't trouble the slick tyre running, though drivers reported a slippy circuit. Verstappen's engineer explained how these conditions could be replicated during Sunday's Grand Prix. The session was completed with drivers running their race simulations. 

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