Lewis Hamilton topped both Friday practice sessions at the Austrian Grand Prix, setting a new lap record in the morning before improving again by nearly 0.5s in the afternoon.
His best time stood at 1:05.483 by the end of the day, 0.147s quicker than title rival Sebastian Vettel in second and 0.216s faster than Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas in third.
Despite showing impressive pace on both short and long runs, it wasn’t all plain sailing for Mercedes as both cars encountered issues during the afternoon session. Hamilton’s first long run started well with a series of laps in the low to mid 1:08s on the ultra-soft compound and high fuel, but it was interrupted after just five laps with a faulty spark plug on an aging engine that will not be used in the race.
Once a new spark plug had been fitted, Hamilton returned to the track for a series of laps in the high 1:08s (similar to Vettel’s long run on ultra-softs) but quickly complained that something felt wrong with the car. He returned to the pits asking his team to “take out a whole load of front wing” but did not return to the track before the end of the session. Combined, Hamilton’s issues cost him 17 laps of running to Vettel but the lap times suggest he has a potentially quicker car over both short and long runs.