LONDON (Dispatches) - Red Bull’s Max Verstappen set the pace in first practice at the Styrian Grand Prix with title rival Lewis Hamilton in third place.
Verstappen was 0.256 seconds quicker than Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly in second, with Hamilton 0.422secs away and team-mate Valtteri Bottas fourth.
Yuki Tsunoda in the second Alpha Tauri was fifth, ahead of the Alpines of Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon.
It is the first of two consecutive races at Austria’s Red Bull Ring.
The second event was needed following a calendar reshuffle when the Turkish Grand Prix, which had been added to the calendar to replace Canada, was dropped as a result of Turkey being added to the UK government’s red list of restricted countries.
Ironically, shortly before practice started in Austria, it was announced that Turkey was added to the calendar for the second time, this time in place of the Singapore Grand Prix on 1-3 October. Singapore was cancelled earlier this month as a result of travel restrictions there.
The weather forecast is for heavy rain to hit during second practice on Friday afternoon so teams crammed more work than usual into the first session.
Most drivers tried all three tyre compounds and many also did race-simulation runs on heavy fuel loads in the final part of the session. Again, Verstappen appeared to have a pace advantage over Hamilton in those conditions as well.
Completing the top 10 behind the Alpines was Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll, ahead of the Alfa Romeo of Antonio Giovinazzi and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.
Leclerc’s team-mate Carlos Sainz had a spin at Turn One but ended up right behind his team-mate in 11th place.
Another spinner was Alfa Romeo reserve driver Robert Kubica, who lost his car at Turn Three on his very first lap.