Once again for Lewis Hamilton, the motorsport gods giveth, and the motorsport gods taketh away.
First he has as good a Friday practice as he’s had all season, barely bested by Max Verstappen (on faster tyres) in FP1, then he topped FP2 for the first time since the season opener in Melbourne so naturally, he had to make a gearbox change and pick up a 5-place grid penalty.
Had Hamilton not have to make that change, you’d have made him a strong favourite to take the win here in Spielberg. It’s readily apparent man and machine are fully in sync, and while his 0.147s lead over frenemy Sebastian Vettel isn’t anything particularly remarkable, Mercedes always seem to find more on Saturdays, making it an ominous sign.
That said, is Hamilton’s pace advantage enough to come-back from P6 on Sunday? It’s hard to say. What little uninterrupted long-runs we got from both Mercedes and Ferrari suggest the former holds the advantage, but it’s unlikely to be enough to let Hamilton catch all the way up. On the bright side, they’ve now got all Saturday to formulate a plan to pull it off.
Coming? Going? Rumours Abound for Sainz and Verstappen
Just what in the name of all that is good and cola-y is going on at Red Bull?
Funnily enough, it’s only the one we’ve heard directly from the horse’s mouth that we can rule out entirely, the other two – who knows?
Red Bull advisor and lost-Scooby Doo villain Helmut Marko was adamant on Friday that Sainz would be in a Toro Rosso next year, but if reports are to be believed and Verstappen is on his way out, things could change.
What makes this particularly tricky to dissect is all the potential misdirection going on. Dutch commentator Olav Mol who is claiming that the Verstappen rumour actually came from the Sainz camp, having fed it to Spanish newspaper Marca, which was subsequently picked-up by The Independent, which if true, is a hell of a piece of skulduggery. In any case, this is a story that seems far from over…
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- Are Honda’s spec-3 engines actually working? P8 and P12 is certainly a good sign. Conversely, if it holds, Sauber is relegated firmly to worst-of-the-lot status.
- Not a great day for Williams, who struggled on a track they’ve performed well at in years past. Would be a great disappointment to not even make the top 10 after their heroics in Azerbaijan.
- Once again Friday was a day with plenty of spills up-and-down the field. Everyone from Sebastian Vettel to Marcus Ericsson was taking off-track sojourns. Could we see the same come Sunday?