Verstappen fastest on Friday as rain looms over Styrian GP qualifying


Max Verstappen was fastest overall on Friday, as rain threatens to arrive and wash out qualifying

Max Verstappen, Styrian GP FP2

It was a solid day for Red Bull and Max Verstappen


Max Verstappen beat Valtteri Bottas by just 0.043sec to top Friday practice in a session that could potentially set the grid for Sunday’s Styrian Grand Prix.

The weather forecast makes for grim reading tomorrow, with torrential rain and thunderstorms expected to arrive and drench the Red Bull Ring, that may lead to the cancellation of qualifying.

If the downpour does materialise and prevent both Free Practice 3 and qualifying, FP2 times would set the grid for Sunday’s race if no time slot can be found on race day to stage a qualification session.

It would be bad news for Lewis Hamilton, who could not do better than sixth position having struggled all afternoon for pace. A mid-session alignment check on his W11 was conducted as the reigning champion found himself over half-a-second down on his team-mate.

There is some solace for Mercedes though, as their gearbox issues from last weekend do not appear to be a threat this time around. An electrical wiring fix looks to have solved those issues.

Charles Leclerc was the lead Ferrari-powered car but was stuck in ninth position. Sebastian Vettel was vocal in his struggles in the car on Friday, and languished in 16th position, behind George Russell‘s Williams.

New updates brought forward one week by the Italian team had aimed to eliminate some of the performance differential between itself and the leading midfield teams, but once again the SF1000 was found lacking versus rivals over a lap.

Daniel Ricciardo was another driver that struggled though was the only one to find the barriers in FP2. He suffered a sizeable crash at the penultimate corner, losing the back end of his Renault on corner entry to Turn Nine.

Daniel Ricciardo, Styrian GP FP2

Ricciardo limped away from a heavy crash in Free Practice 2

Clive Mason - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images

The impact decimated the rear of his car and the Australian limped away from the wreckage. He was declared medically fit following an evaluation upon his return to the paddock.

One team that will be thrilled should it rain on Saturday is Racing Point. The pink cars were looking mighty around the relatively short lap, with Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll ending the session P3 and P4 respectively.

Perez was the first man into the 1m 03’s and was just one one-hundredth off of his qualifying time from last weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix. Stroll initially struggled to keep his RP20 inside track limits but put in a time good enough for the team to annex the second row if qualifying is cancelled.

Verstappen may have topped the session but Alexander Albon was another that struggled on Friday, spinning twice during FP2 and complaining of mid-corner instability.

A pirouette through the gravel on the exit of Turn Eight and subsequent flat spot made for an uncomfortable end to his session, ending up in seventh place.

If Lando Norris is going to repeat his podium from last weekend, it would be a major achievement as the McLaren driver earned himself a three-place grid penalty for overtaking Pierre Gasly under yellow flags in FP1.

The McLaren looked a solid package once more but just not a match for the Racing Point over one lap again. Team-mate Carlos Sainz managed fifth position ahead of Hamilton’s Mercedes.