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Hamilton leaves F1 rivals trailing

Perfect start to F1 2020 for Hamilton, Mercedes; Fast Racing Point head chasing pack as Red Bull struggle; Ferrari also off the pace; Watch Austrian GP qualifying at 2pm on Saturday on Sky F1

By Matt Morlidge

Last Updated: 03/07/20 3:55pm

Lewis Hamilton laid down an emphatic marker on Formula 1 2020’s opening weekend by topping both Friday sessions at the Austrian GP, with Mercedes stamping their authority in an ominously-fast Practice Two.

Hamilton enjoyed a perfect start to his seventh F1 title quest by following up his P1 fastest time with a big advantage in the afternoon in Spielberg, two-tenths of a second ahead of team-mate Valtteri Bottas and more than half a second clear of the nearest non-Mercedes car.

Sergio Perez was third for a Racing Point team who have also started fast, although well adrift of the 1:04.304 posted by Hamilton on the same soft tyre.

Although F1 looks a lot different in Austria to what we saw in the sport’s last Grand Prix more than half a year ago – with no fans in attendance and strict coronavirus protocols – Hamilton and Mercedes have hit the ground running as if they have never been away.

“They’ve looked strong from the first lap out of the pits,” said Sky F1’s Jenson Button. “It’s pretty much what we expect from Mercedes.”

Red Bull were hoping to be Mercedes’ rivals in-chief this weekend but Max Verstappen and Alex Albon were only eighth and 13th in a session which was littered with RB16 spins.

“Where we are in the timesheet doesn’t look like where we are in reality,” team boss Christian Horner, who has hinted at an official protest of Mercedes ‘DAS’ system, insisted to Sky F1.

While Verstappen added: “Lap times don’t really say anything because I broke my wing in the first lap. Of course there are things we can do better but it was a good day.”

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Instead, it was Racing Point who took over as the Silver Arrows’ closest challengers, with Perez leading an extremely tight midfield pack – just ahead of Sebastian Vettel in the Ferrari, and Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo.

Lando Norris was sixth in the McLaren ahead of Racing Point’s Lance Stroll.

“Anybody having an off day in the top six cars is going to have a Racing Point challenging them,” said Sky F1‘s Martin Brundle.

And that may be under-estimating Racing Point’s speed considering their pace so far this weekend.

Leclerc was down in ninth in the other Ferrari, who are expecting to struggle this weekend as they wait for a big upgrade in Hungary in two weeks’ time.

More to follow…

Austrian GP Practice Two Timesheet

Driver Team Time
1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:04.304
2. Valtteri Bottas Mercedes +0.197
3. Sergio Perez Racing Point +0.641
4. Sebastian Vettel Ferrari +0.657
5. Daniel Ricciardo Renault +0.668
6. Lando Norris McLaren +0.783
7. Lance Stroll Racing Point +0.831
8. Max Verstappen Red Bull +0.911
9. Charles Leclerc Ferrari +0.994
10. Carlos Sainz McLaren +1.048
11. Esteban Ocon Renault +1.111
12. Daniil Kvyat AlphaTauri +1.139
13. Alexander Albon Red Bull +1.149
14. Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo +1.304
15. Kevin Magnussen Haas +1.374
16. Romain Grosjean Haas +1.604
17. Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri +1.712
18. George Russell Williams +1.821
19. Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo +1.974
20. Nicholas Latifi Williams +2.820

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