Verstappen leads Gasly in Styrian GP first practice

© XPB 

Max Verstappen clocked in fastest in Friday's first practice session in Austria, the Red Bull charger edging AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly by 0.256s.

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas finished their opening session third and fourth, just ahead of Yuki Tsunoda who confirmed AlphaTauri's early form in Spielberg.

The Red Bull Ring nestled in the luscious hills of Styria was basking in warm weather but partially overcast skies as the first practice session of the weekend kicked off.

As scheduled, Alfa Romeo reserve Robert Kubica filled in for Kimi Raikkonen, and the Pole took to the track as soon as the light went green only to lose the rear at Turn 3 and bring out a yellow flag.

Teams were active at the outset with a flurry of cars populating the track, including Roy Nissany, slot in as George Russell's replacement for the 60-minute session.

Verstappen was on it from the get-go, establishing himself at the top of the timesheet with a lap in the mid 1m06s, the Dutchman leading his four fellow Red Bull family members as Pierre Gasly, Sergio Perez and Yuki Tsunoda followed.

But a proper run by Hamilton on the soft tyre overhauled Verstappen by 0.121s, while Valtteri Bottas moved up to fourth, behind Gasly. But the Finn pressed on and slotted in behind his Mercedes teammate.

Meanwhile, Carlos Sainz went for a strange spin at the pitlane exit from where he duly recovered.

As the soft tyre became the rubber of choice for the front-runners, Verstappen dipped into the 1m05s to reclaim the top spot as Gasly followed suit but 0.256s behind.

Tsunoda's position among the top five, just behind the Mercedes drivers, also attested to AlphaTauri's speed around the Red Bull Ring.

Menacing clouds on the mountain horizon suggested that FP1 could be the only dry session of the day, which enticed everyone to put in the laps.

But positions remained unchanged among the top five, with Verstappen topping the session ahead of Gasly, Hamilton, Bottas and Tsunoda.

In addition to AlphaTauri and Mercedes, Alpine was the only other team to put both its drivers among the top-ten, with Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon, lining up P6 and P7, just ahead of Aston martin's Lance Stroll, Alfa's Antonio Giovinazzi and Leclerc.

Sainz concluded the morning just outside the first half, while both McLarens underwent a slow start with Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris clocking in 12th and 16th.

At the tail end of the field, Haas' Nikita Mazepin once again brought up the rear, preceded by teammate Mick Schumacher and Kubica.

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