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Perez kicks off Austria round two with leading first practice pace

Perez kicks off Austria round two with leading first practice pace

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Perez kicks off Austria round two with leading first practice pace

Perez kicks off Austria round two with leading first practice pace

Racing Point's Sergio Perez led the way in first practice as Formula 1 returned to Austria for the second of the back-to-back grands prix.

Just a few days after Valtteri Bottas took the chequered flag in a thrilling opening race at the Red Bull Ring on Sunday, F1 was back at the circuit for what has been entitled the Styrian Grand Prix.

It is the first time in F1 history that two consecutive races have been staged at the same venue, so for all the teams, it is a case of fine-tuning the cars ahead of the second event on Sunday.

Racing Point proved itself to be a dark horse last weekend and that its form in pre-season testing was no fluke, and it was Perez who topped the timesheet with a lap of one minute 04.867secs, 0.051s adrift of Lewis Hamilton's leading FP1 time from a week ago.

Running on the soft Pirelli compound, Perez finished 0.096s ahead of Red Bull's Max Verstappen, who will be hoping Honda has cured the electrical faults that led to his retirement and that of team-mate Alex Albon in Sunday's race.

Mercedes duo Bottas and Hamilton were 0.222s and 0.253s adrift respectively, albeit with both on the medium tyre, followed by the second Racing Point of Lance Stroll on softs, just over half-a-second behind the leading pace of team-mate Perez.

Racing Point now appears to be Sebastian Vettel's only option for a drive for next season as Red Bull team principal " href="https://www.gpfans.com/en/articles/54165/red-bull-definitively-rule-vettel-out-of-running-for-2021-drive/">Christian Horner has said it is "a definite no" to the 33-year-old returning to the team that made him a four-time champion.

The intensity of the midfield pack was again underlined for this season as from Stroll down there were 10 drivers covered by just half a second.

It was a mix of teams behind Stroll as the Canadian was followed by Albon, the McLaren of Carlos Sainz, AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly, Daniel Ricciardo in his Renault and then Vettel

The German, running on sorts, completed the top 10, finishing nine-tenths of a second down in an SF1000 sporting a new front wing as Ferrari has managed to bring forward some updates that were due to be on the car for the next race in Hungary.

Leclerc, who saved Ferrari with second place in the season opener, was down in 12th, nearly a second adrift.

Williams reserve Jack Aitken was given his first FP1 outing, replacing George Russell, with the 24-year-old 17th and 1.9s off the pace, albeit with his remit simply to put mileage on the car rather than go for outright pace.

For Nicolas Latifi in his Williams, it was another practice session lost, as was the case with FP3 last week when he suffered an early crash, but this time suffering a gearbox problem that left him with just six laps to his name.

Haas' Kevin Magnussen fared enough worse as the Dane only managed three installation laps before encountering a battery issue in a car that last weekend endured brake woes.

Before you go...

Red Bull definitively rule Vettel out of running for 2021 drive

Qualifying under threat as thunderstorms forecast in Austria

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