VIENNA (Dispatches) - Red Bull’s Max Verstappen set the pace in first practice at the Austrian Grand Prix, with title rival Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes down in seventh.
Verstappen was 0.266 seconds quicker than Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in a session made unrepresentative by the teams testing a new tyre for Pirelli.
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz was third fastest ahead of Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas and Alpha Tauri’s Yuki Tsunoda.
Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen was sixth fastest ahead of Hamilton.
The new Pirelli rear tyre is a beefed-up construction aimed at making the tyres safer, after the two high-speed failures suffered by Verstappen and Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix last month.
Each driver has to do a minimum of 12 laps on the new tyre during the course of Friday’s two sessions. Pirelli will then analyse the data and if it is satisfied, the new tyre will be introduced at the next race, the British Grand Prix.
Verstappen, who dominated the Styrian Grand Prix on this same track last weekend, said he was immediately comfortable with the Red Bull from his first run on Friday morning.
Mercedes have spent the three days since the last race trying to work out if there is anything they can do with the set-up of the car to make them more competitive this weekend.
The weather conditions are cooler than last weekend but Pirelli has brought a softer tyre selection for this second race, with the three softest compounds from its range.
Behind Hamilton, Red Bull’s Sergio Perez, Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly and McLaren’s Lando Norris completed the top 10.