Austrian GP FP1 & FP2: MercedesAMG’s Nico Rosberg Sets Pace in Rainy Session
The sound of racecars filled the hills surrounding the Red Bull Ring in picturesque Spielberg, Austria, Friday as practice began for Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix.
Nico Rosberg made it 2 for 2 in Austrian GP practice but heavy rain 10 mins into the afternoon session disrupted practice.
The championship leader broke Michael Schumaker’s Red Bull record in P1 lapping the 2.6-mi track in a 1:07.967 in P2 before the showers began, just 0.019s faster than Lewis Hamilton as his teammate made a late push on the ultra-soft tires.
Nico Hulkenberg was some 6/10’s further back in 3rd while Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo followed the Force India in Spielberg. Mr. Vettel was later involved in the biggest spin of the session, sliding his Ferrari racer into the gravel after locking-up.
The teams rushed cars out of the garage at the start of P2 with storm clouds looming over the Ring, but drivers were reporting spots of rain on their visors within minutes.
A downpour followed and Jolyon Palmer, Sergio Perez and Jenson Button were all victims of not being able to enter the pits in time.
Torrential rain and streams on the main straight halted the session for more than 30 mins, with Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen the 1st to return on intermediate tires for Red Bull.
The Ring was too wet for the compound in some parts of the track and too dry in others and it took some time until softer rubber was able to be used again.
With rain a strong possibility on Saturday and Sunday most teams saw the conditions as good preparation for the weekend ahead, though Fernando Alonso told his team “I’ve not been learning anything for the last half hour”, when asked if he wanted to return to the pits.
When the track was ready for slicks, Mr. Hamilton led a late charge, Mr. Rosberg focused on longer runs, but the world champion’s best effort could not push his MercedesAMG team-mate off the top of the time sheets.
Drama at the end of Friday’s practice came from Ferrari with Mr. Vettel pitched straight into the gravel when braking on the run-up to Turn 2.
“We had an issue with the brake distribution,” Mr. Vettel said. “It caught me by surprise but it didn’t matter too much and fortunately nothing happened.”
FP2 timesheet, as follows:
1. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1:07.967
2. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1:07.986
3. Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, 1:08.580
4. Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, 1:08.589
5. Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, 1:08.649
6. Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso, 1:08.713
7. Max Verstappen, Red Bull, 1:08.761
8. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1:08.820
9. Valtteri Bottas, Williams, 1:08.941
10. Jenson Button, McLaren, 1:08.994
11. Fernando Alonso, McLaren, 1:09.075
12. Felipe Massa, Williams, 1:09.184
13. Daniel Kvyat, Toro Rosso, 1:09.207
14. Sergio Perez, Force India, 1:09.226
15. Kevin Magnussen, Renault, 1:09.525
16. Jolyon Palmer, Renault, 1:10.020
17. Pascal Wehrlein, Manor, 1:10.034
18. Esteban Gutierrez, Haas, 1:10.138
19. Marcus Ericsson, Sauber, 1:10.140
20. Romain Grosjean, Haas, 1:10.400
21. Felipe Nasr, Sauber, 1:10.444
22. Rio Haryanto, Manor, 1:11.328
Drivers have one more practice session on Saturday (11:00-12:00 local time) before qualifying starts at 02:00 local time. Qualifying consists of 3 rounds, with the 16 fastest drivers from FQ1 moving on to FQ2. Then, the 10 fastest drivers from FQ2 advance to FQ3 where they will battle for the Pole
Stay tuned, Qualifying is Saturday, the Race is Sunday