until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula 1

Verstappen car drama: What happened in sole Austria F1 practice

by Edd Straw
4 min read

Max Verstappen recovered from a scare just after the halfway mark when he ground to a halt on the start/finish straight and caused a red flag to top the sole free practice session for the Austrian Grand Prix.

Just after the half-hour mark, what Verstappen described as an “engine fault” struck as he came through the penultimate corner with 28 minutes remaining. He parked up against the pitwall and through a combination of letting it roll back down the hill once the session was stopped and assistance from marshals to return to the garage.

Fortunately Red Bull was able to fix the problem immediately and he returned to the track shortly after the restart. Having held third for much of the session based on his work on the medium tyres, Verstappen then bolted on softs and posted a time of 1m05.685s on his qualifying simulation lap.

That put him a comfortable 0.276s quicker than McLaren driver Oscar Piastri, but this performance wasn’t quite as encouraging as it seemed on paper with a close fight likely in sprint qualifying later today.

Sergio Perez in the second Red Bull was down in 12th. However, he had been close behind Verstappen on outright pace when they were running mediums before being unable to improve his time on softs.


McLaren ran a new front wing in this session, along with associated changes to the front suspension. Piastri ran that wing from the start, with Lando Norris initially using the old-spec design by way of a back-to-back.

After doing much of their running on the hards, McLaren bolted on softs for the qualifying simulation. Norris made his attempt late and looked well-placed to depose Verstappen after setting the fastest time of all in the first sector – almost a tenth up on the Red Bull driver.

However, he was too attacking into the downhill right-hander at Turn 4, briefly locking up and running through the gravel. But with Piastri setting the best second sector, the underlying pace of the McLaren looks strong. 


Mercedes topped much of the running, with Lewis Hamilton setting the pace on hard tyres as teams focused on their race preparation work. That speed was good enough to leave him fifth, 0.569s off the pace, as Hamilton opted not to run softs. 

Team-mate George Russell did but his lap was ruined by encountering the Sauber of Zhou Guanyu at Turn 4. He aborted, giving Zhou a sarcastic thumbs up as he did so, although his first sector time was a little slower than Verstappen’s.

But it was another encouraging performance for Mercedes, which showed signs of having the pace to be a threat for pole position in sprint qualifying this afternoon.


Just as in Spain, Ferrari ultimately looked the fourth-quickest of the leading teams despite Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz ending up third and fourth.

They briefly held the top two spots after completing their quali sims before being shuffled behind. However, they would likely have been outpaced by the Mercedes drivers and Norris had they all completed proper qualifying simulations on softs.


Alpine driver Esteban Ocon pipped Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll to be the fastest of the group of six teams in the midfield.

Ocon was just six-tenths down, with team-mate Pierre Gasly backing him up in 11th place, just behind Alonso.

Yuki Tsunoda will have been encouraged to end up ninth fastest despite a difficult session in which he complained of a steering column that “feels weird”.

RB introduced a major upgrade in Barcelona last weekend that didn’t work as hoped, meaning the team has split the specification across Daniel Ricciardo and Yuki Tsunoda. This wasn’t a straight split of old versus new spec, with Ricciardo describing the approach as “a bit of a mix”. That also included running new winglets on the rear drums introduced for this weekend.

Ricciardo was down in 16th, but the fact Tsunoda showed top 10 pace and the team completed its programme across differing specs will be gently encouraging for the team.

Sauber, Haas and Williams had the three slowest cars in FP1, but with the short, sharp lap at the Red Bull Ring the gap between the quickest and the most off-the-pace car (Alex Albon’s Williams in 18th) was just 1.310s.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Email
  • More Networks