Championship leader Max Verstappen was quickest out of the blocks on Friday as he came in fastest in opening practice for this weekend’s Styrian Grand Prix, outpacing Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly by 0.256 seconds with title rival Lewis Hamilton third at 0.422secs.
Verstappen, 23, goes into Sunday’s contest with a 12-point lead over seven-time champion Hamilton and was quickly into his stride in blustery conditions — heavy rain was forecast — as the Briton and his Mercedes once again failed to find their form in the teeth of Red Bull’s challenge.
The Dutchman, who switched to soft tyres midway through the session in Austria, was in no mood to give his rivals any early hope as he blazed round in 1min 05.910 sec.
Valtteri Bottas was narrowly behind his team-mate Hamilton in fourth ahead of Yuki Tsunoda in the second Alpha Tauri and Alpine’s pair of Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon.
Ferrari’s recent woes coming off a pointless finish at the French Grand Prix continued as Carlos Sainz spun across at turn one before trundling in 11th after battling throttle issues.