Following a less promising pre-season testing, Scuderia Ferrari continued where they left off at Barcelona with Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc unable to post top lap times in the first free practice session for the Austrian Grand Prix.
Reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton started his title defense in style by posting the quickest lap with a time of 1m04.816. The Briton was followed by his team-mate Valtteri Bottas with Max Verstappen grabbing the third place.
After heavy showers at night, the first free practice session for the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix started in good condition with only a couple of damp patches on the track.
Drivers were keen on completing their installation laps to get a first feel for their new race cars. Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas was the last driver to take it to the track. Lando Norris, Bottas and Sainz were the first drivers to set timed laps before Lewis Hamilton also joined the track. The Finn driver reported to his race engineer spots of rains which ended the runs for the quartet of drivers.
Just a couple of minutes later, Sebastian Vettel returned to the track on intermediate tyres followed by his teammate Charles Leclerc, Bottas and Hamilton. However, the Ferrari drivers reported that the track was too dry for wet-weather tyres. Despite the track conditions, several drivers made the trip out on to the 4.3km circuit on intermediates.
Hamilton was the first to hit the track on dry tyres again and it did not take too long for the six-time world champion to overtake the lead from his team-mate. The Briton set a lap time of 1m06.994.
The next minutes saw drivers complete their laps diligently as the track steadily improved. With 38 minutes to go, Racing Point drivers Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll led the timing sheet, proving that their 2020 car, referred to as ’Pink Mercedes by fans, has real potential.
With 30 minutes remaining, the Mercedes duo re-joined the track action with Pirelli’s softest compound available in Austria this weekend. Clocking in a time of 1m04.816, Hamilton set the quickest lap in the session with Bottas posting the second-fastest lap time.
After working diligently on the hard compound with higher fuel levels, Max Verstappen received the red-walled soft Pirelli tyres. The Dutch driver, however, span in Turn 1 on his first lap, but after a cool-down lap, he went to post the third-quickest lap time, albeit with six tenths of a second off Mercedes.
Ferrari drivers chose not to give it all in terms of outright pace. Leclerc and Vettel used the yellow-walled medium compound for their second stint, notching up a series of laps, presumably on higher fuel loads. In the end, the duo went out for another run, posting race-pace-like lap times.
Haas-Ferrari driver Romain Grosjean was the least diligent driver in FP1, albeit it was not his own choice. After reporting issues related to his brake pedal, the Frenchman spent the majority of the first session in the garage just to return for an installation lap for the dying seconds of the session.