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Verstappen sets benchmark as red flags disrupt crucial qualifying preparations

Verstappen sets benchmark as red flags disrupt crucial qualifying preparations

Verstappen sets benchmark as red flags disrupt crucial qualifying preparations

Verstappen sets benchmark as red flags disrupt crucial qualifying preparations

Max Verstappen's domination of the Red Bull Ring looks set to continue after the reigning F1 champion took top spot in first practice for the Austrian Grand Prix.

The Dutchman took victory in both races at the venue last season and during a disrupted session that saw two red flag periods, Verstappen set a time of a one minute, 06.302secs to beat Charles Leclerc by 0.255s.

But McLaren endured a miserable hour with Lando Norris stopping on track and Daniel Ricciardo suffering from issues of his own.

Norris had complained of his MCL36 being in limp home mode just moments into the session but after 21 minutes, the Briton stopped on the entry to turn six, saying on team radio: "I'm on fire, I need to stop, there is smoke under my seat so I would rather stop."

The red flags were thrown, taking away five valuable minutes for everyone with only one hour of practice ahead of qualifying but crucially for Norris, it means there is no soft tyre data from his side of the garage to use in preparation for the afternoon's running.

McLaren took further pain on Ricciardo's car with a seemingly defective rear wing left flapping in the wind, cutting short his run plan.

Another red flag period was triggered with 22 minutes left, somewhat cautiously, with a strip of rubber lying on the racing line between turns six and seven, bleeding more crucial time from the clock.

The delays left just 15 minutes for teams to complete qualifying simulations and it was Verstappen that set the benchmark at a track he has dominated at in recent years.

But it was not all plain sailing for Verstappen, who complained of rivals obstructing him on three separate occasions.

Leclerc again marked himself as the reigning world champion's nearest challenger, with both Mercedes drivers right in the hunt, George Russell faster than Lewis Hamilton.

Kevin Magnussen was sixth fastest for Haas ahead of Carlos Sainz, whilst Alonso's medium tyre run at the start of the session was good enough for eighth with Mick Schumacher and Yuki Tsunoda rounding out the top 10.

Sergio Perez had a troubled session, running wide at turn four on his first lap before complaining of the set-up going in the wrong direction.

When set-up work had been completed, the Mexican slotted himself into fourth.

Valtteri Bottas has had his engine changed at Alfa Romeo and will start from the back of the grid for Sunday's grand prix.

Austrian Grand Prix first practice results:

1. Max Verstappen [Red Bull] 1:06.302secs

2. Charles Leclerc [Ferrari] +0.255s

3. George Russell [Mercedes] +0.400s

4. Sergio Perez [Red Bull] +0.537s

5. Lewis Hamilton [Mercedes] +0.607s

6. Kevin Magnussen [Haas] +0.663s

7. Carlos Sainz [Ferrari] +0.737s

8. Fernando Alonso [Alpine] +0.798s [M]

9. Mick Schumacher [Haas] +0.944s

10. Yuki Tsunoda [AlphaTauri] +0.994s

11. Lance Stroll [Aston Martin] +1.129s

12. Esteban Ocon [Alpine] +1.160s [M]

13. Sebastian Vettel [Aston Martin] +1.174s

14. Valtteri Bottas [Alfa Romeo] +1.220s

15. Alex Albon [Williams] +1.280s

16. Pierre Gasly [AlphaTauri] +1.290s

17. Daniel Ricciardo [McLaren] +1.441s [M]

18. Zhou Guanyu [Alfa Romeo] +1.587s

19. Nicholas Latifi [Williams] +1.847s

20 Lando Norris [McLaren] +3.613s [M]

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