Leclerc on top in chaotic Austrian practice


Leclerc on top in chaotic Austrian practice
Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc during the second practice session of the Austrian Formula One Grand Prix (AFP)

Spielberg - Hamilton had been fastest in the morning's opening session, but it was a different story in the afternoon heat


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Published: Fri 28 Jun 2019, 9:47 PM

Last updated: Fri 28 Jun 2019, 11:54 PM

Charles Leclerc topped the times after a gusty wind and a more demanding set of twists and gradient changes served up the season's most incident-filled practice with two red-flag interruptions at the Austrian Grand Prix on Friday.
Leclerc for Ferrari posted the quickest lap ahead of Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas and Red Bull's Pierre Gasly, but it was an afternoon of errors and mishaps that saw three of the sport's top drivers in dramatic off-circuit excursions.
Defending five-time champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes had been fastest in the morning's opening session, the first time this year he topped FP1, but it was a different story in the afternoon heat as Leclerc set the pace.
On a sweltering afternoon in the Styrian Alps, with an air temperature of 31 and the track at 55 degrees, Hamilton was fourth for Mercedes and Sebastian Vettel was eighth in the second Ferrari.
Max Verstappen, who wound up ninth, crashed his Red Bull as did Bottas later in his Mercedes, both men escaping unhurt.
"I was already complaining about the wind being tricky and then I got in the corner and the rear turned around," said Verstappen. "These cars, in general, are really sensitive to the wind and crashes can happen..."
Bottas said: "It's all ok. I just lost the rear end suddenly into Turn Five. It was very unexpected, I made a correction, but it was a bit too late.
"This afternoon is a bit more windy and the track is very penalising on making mistakes. It can happen I guess."
While Bottas continued, Verstappen was left to rely on Gasly to give him the long-run data for Saturday and Sunday. "In general, I was happy with the car and that's what I focused on," said Verstappen.
"I don't know if I can get on the second row yet, but we'll see."
Carlos Sainz was fifth for McLaren ahead of Romain Grosjean of Haas, Kimi Raikkonen of Alfa Romeo, Vettel, Verstappen and British rookie Lando Norris in the second McLaren.
Five days after a flat, processional and uneventful French Grand Prix, the Spielberg circuit delivered the busiest and most chaotic free practice of the season, as Mercedes struggled to repeat their customary supremacy.

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