Lewis Hamilton edges Max Verstappen in opening practice for Austrian Grand Prix
Austrian Grand Prix - FP1

Lewis Hamilton edges Max Verstappen in opening practice for Austrian Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton posted the quickest-ever lap of the Red Bull Ring to go fastest in opening practice, beating Max Verstappen by 0.190s.

Having lost victory at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix due to an issue with his headrest, Hamilton continued his impressive form from that weekend to go top on a 1:05.975. That time is already a big improvement on 2016's pole time -- which was set on a drying track in Austria -- and the Q2 benchmark of 1:06.228 set in dry conditions. The three-time world champion set his quickest time on the soft compound tyre, suggesting there is much more pace to come from the softer compounds.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen split the Mercedes drivers in second, 0.190s off Hamilton's lead time, on the super-soft tyre. Though its home circuit tends not to suit Red Bull's lack of power, the team was surprisingly competitive in Canada and Azerbaijan and the teenager's early pace will be enouraging. Verstappen had set a purple fastest opening sector in the closing moments of the sector, only to spin at Turn 3, meaning he did not get to complete the lap. He also was fortunate to escape with just minor damage to his right tyre after running off the circuit in the middle sector, running across the gravel and brushing the wall.

Valtteri Bottas finished third, 0.370s down on his teammate, in a session which saw him twice run off the circuit at Turn 1. Championship leader Sebastian Vettel was fourth, 0.449s off title rival Hamilton, and was one of the cars to spin early in the session after losing the rear of his car on the Turn 1 apex. Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo finished fifth ahead of the other Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen, who spun at Turn 3 (officially known as Turn 2 until this year's race) early in the session.

The biggest surprise of the session was the pace of Stoffel Vandoorne and McLaren. Not only did the Belgian outpace Fernando Alonso, but McLaren looked competitive with Honda's Spec-3 engine, which has been introduced ahead of the week. Though FP1 times can be misleading, it is an impressive start on a circuit where power is essential. Toro Rosso's Daniil Kvyat finished ahead of Fernando Alonso, who ensured both McLaren's finished in the top ten. Both Vandoorne and Alonso's times were set on the ultra-soft tyre but, as Hamilton's own benchmark suggested, there does not seem to be a clear difference between the compounds at this early stage of the weekend.

Esteban Ocon was 10th for Force India, just 0.04s ahead of Williams' Felipe Massa, a team battle which looks set to be close all weekend. Kevin Magnussen was 12th, ahead of Carlos Sainz and the under-pressure Jolyon Palmer. After his maiden podium in Baku, Lance Stroll could only manage 15th and spun early on in the session at Turn 5. Romain Grosjean was 16th but lost some time when he clattered the kerbs heavily at the final sequence of corners, sustaining a right left puncture.

Sergey Sirotkin, replacing Renault's Nico Hulkenberg for the opening 90 minutes, was 17th, ahead of Force India stand-in Alfonso Celis. In the battle of the Saubers, Pascal Wehrlein finished 1.5s ahead of Marcus Ericsson, who only completed 12 laps after his car spent much of the session being worked on in the garage.

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