Karun Chandhok takes a closer look at the key fight from FP2 in Austria.
Lewis Hamilton reclaimed much-needed momentum for Mercedes at the Austrian GP by topping one-twos in second practice, with championship leader and race favorite Max Verstappen third.
Hamilton, well behind his title rivals at home to Red Bull Spielberg last Sunday and only seventh in opening practice for the weekend at the same track, managed to find pace one lap into qualifying day and outscored Valtteri Bottas and Verstappen by 0.2 seconds. . with its 1:04,523.
Verstappen had led Mercedes on medium tires before a switch to soft tires seemed to ignite their W12 car – which Hamilton nearly ran over in the closing stages after finding gravel at Turn 4 during a light rain.
Lando Norris is also spinning in conditions that, tantalizingly, could be similar to race day as Red Bull and Mercedes prepare to renew the rivalry in Austria.
After Friday’s run, team boss Toto Wolff told Sky F1 he is now “very optimistic” about the prospects for world champions this weekend as they seek to end their longest winning drought since 2013, although Hamilton feels 2021 title leaders Red Bull are holding some back off.
The Mercedes-powered Aston Martin team also enjoyed a much better session, with Lance Stroll and Sebastian Vettel – while more than half a second from lead time – impressively running in fourth and fifth.
AlphaTauris led by Yuki Tsunoda were sixth and seventh, while Fernando Alonso – returning to the car after replacing debutant Guanyu Zhou in the previous session – finished eighth.
High-speed spin and quick response from Lando Norris at Turn One.
McLaren’s Brit Norris and Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi round out the top 10, which surprisingly doesn’t include Sergio Perez at Red Bull or any other Ferrari.
Perez was 11th while Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc, who were third and second in first practice, finished 13th and 16th to end Friday’s run.
Has the tide changed? Hamilton and Verstappen react to Friday
Despite topping the session, Hamilton, who felt Red Bull had a 0.2-second lead over the weekend, believes Mercedes have not made enough improvements to beat their rivals.
“They must have had something extra in their bag, I already knew that,” Hamilton said.
“I think we’ve made some small progress today but I think they still have two tenths, or maybe a tenth and a half. We’ve certainly made a few small steps forward but not enough to cover those two-tenths.”
Hamilton also acknowledged that the lack of pace in the first practice was due to a planned change at the back of this week’s simulator session, before switching back to a similar setup to the Styrian GP in P2.
Lewis Hamilton is reluctant to admit there is improvement but he expects a tough challenge ahead of qualifying.
“I’m generally happy with where the car is,” he added. “I wouldn’t change too much because most often if it ain’t broke it doesn’t fix it, and if you try to find more it will get worse. So I’ll do the smallest tweak.”
Unsurprisingly, Verstappen pumped Mercedes into making repairs.
“I think it will be tight,” said the Dutchman, who has an 18-point lead in the championship. “They’ve definitely improved a bit, but we’ll see tomorrow in the qualifiers.
“They seem pretty fast on that soft compound. I think from our side it wasn’t perfect on that run, but either way I felt good in the car. There are no real problems, we just have to make sure we have more speed on the track. soft because on the media we look good and also in the long run we look good.”
Austrian GP Practice Two Timesheet
|1) Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||1:04,523|
|2) Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes||+0.189|
|3) Max Verstappen||Red Bull||+0.217|
|4) Lance walks||Aston Martin||+0.616|
|5) Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin||+0.745|
|6) Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri||+0.833|
|7) Pierre Gasly||AlphaTauri||+0.856|
|8) Fernando Alonso||Alps||+0.870|
|9) Lando Norris||McLaren||+0.943|
|10) Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo||+0.988|
|11) Sergio Perez||Red Bull||+0.993|
|12) Esteban Ocon||Alps||+1.004|
|13) Carlos Sainzo||Ferrari||+1.097|
|14) Kimi Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo||+1.101|
|15) Daniel Ricciardo||McLaren||+1,175|
|16) Charles Leclerc||Ferrari||+1.185|
|17) George Russell||Williams||+1,296|
|18) Mick Schumacher||Haas||+1,388|
|19) Nicholas Latifi||Williams||+1,491|
|20) Nikita Mazepin||Haas||+1,650|