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'Old normal' for F1 as Hamilton dominates season-opening practice in Austria

'Old normal' for F1 as Hamilton dominates season-opening practice in Austria

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'Old normal' for F1 as Hamilton dominates season-opening practice in Austria

'Old normal' for F1 as Hamilton dominates season-opening practice in Austria

Six-time Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton made light of Formula 1's so-called 'new normal' by sweeping Friday practice ahead of the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix.

F1 may be attempting to acclimatise to very different conditions at the Red Bull Ring, with all team personnel wearing PPE and adhering to social distancing measures where possible, but on track, the early signs are that little has changed.

It was only Friday practice, when not too much can be read into the timings, but the gap between Hamilton and Mercedes to the best of the rest was significant at the Red Bull Ring, and around a track that is the shortest lap of the year in terms of time.

In the second 90-minute session, Hamilton improved upon his leading time from FP1 by half-a-second, clocking one minute 04.304secs on soft tyres, and with conditions at their best during the day compared to the morning when grey skies dominated.

Team-mate Valtteri Bottas finished just under two-tenths of a second down in a car that this weekend boasts the innovative DAS system that may yet be officially protested by Red Bull.

The lap times from the duo are still considerably off the pace of last year's pole from Ferrari's Charles Leclerc by 1.3secs, so it is apparent there is time in hand.

Racing Point's Sergio Perez was third quickest, 0.641s adrift of Hamilton, but in a car that has angered many midfield rivals given its resemblance to Mercedes' 2019 title-winning W10.

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, who is to leave the Scuderia at the end of this season after six years with the team - and who team principal Mattia Binotto claims is still unhappy with being axed - was just 0.016s behind Perez, and a third of a second clear of ninth-placed team Charles Leclerc.

In between the Scuderi duo, Renault's Daniel Ricciardo was only 0.11s behind Vettel, with Lando Norris a tenth of a second further back in his McLaren.

Perez's Racing Point team-mate Lance Stroll was seventh on the timesheet, 0.831s behind Hamilton with Red Bull's Max Verstappen nine-tenths of a second down in ninth.

Verstappen blotted both sessions with minor incidents, spinning coming out of turn one in FP1, and then going for a trundle across the gravel at one stage in FP2, forcing him to take an escape road to return to the track.

McLaren's Carlos Sainz rounded out the top 10, just over a second down.

The usual suspects were in the lower half of the timesheet, with rookie Nicolas Latifi bringing up the rear in his Williams, a staggering 2.820s off the pace and a second behind 18th-placed team-mate George Russell.

Before you go...

Vettel "not fully happy" even now with Ferrari axe decision - Binotto

Mercedes "monitoring" Ferrari power unit situation - Wolff

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