Austria FP1: Verstappen fastest, Sainz and Leclerc chase

Austria FP1: Verstappen tops, Ferrari next best

Austria FP1: Verstappen fastest, Sainz and Leclerc chase

Max Verstappen set the fastest lap in the first and only practice session for the 2023 Austrian Grand Prix, ahead of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc.

What makes it more scary to his rivals is that Verstappen set his fastest time, 0.241s faster than Sainz in second, using the Medium compound. Red Bull did not even bother to use the Softs.

Sainz set his best time on the Soft tyres in comparison, the same applying to his teammate Leclerc, who was third fastest.

Fernando Alonso was also another driver not to use the Soft tyres during practice, hence his eighth fastest time in FP1.


Buildup towards FP1

Austria will feature the second of six Sprint Formula 1 weekends this season, the first was in Azerbaijan, and was dominated by Sergio Perez.

But the Mexican has been struggling lately, and to make matters more tricky, he was sick on Thursday missing his media duties, but seemed to be on the mend ahead of the first practice.

So as a reminder, Friday will feature the first and only practice session this weekend, and will be following by Qualifying to set the starting grid for Sunday’s Grand Prix.

Saturday will be reserved for the Sprint Race, with its starting grid decided in the Sprint Shootout earlier in the day.

Verstappen and Red Bull enter this weekend as favorites, while Mercedes and Aston Martin feel the nature of the track at Spielberg may suite their cars a bit more.

Ferrari are bringing some more upgrades to Austria this weekend, hoping to push them more in the right direction after some glimpses of hope following the race pace they showed in Canada, while McLaren also have a major upgrade for this weekend (only on Lando Norris’ car), which they are banking on to turn their fortunes around.

McLaren’s upgrades are part of a three-part package that will spread over Austrian, British, and Hungarian Grands Prix.

As for Pirelli, they brought their softest compounds to Austria this weekend, C3 (Hard), C4 (Medium), and C5 (Soft).

The track in Spielberg is quite short, so expect the slightest of margins to make a difference in Qualifying and the Sprint Shootout.

Austria FP1 session highlights

FP1 started in clear weather conditions, with ambient temperatures being 27C while the track temperature was 47C.

The only thing that remained unchanged on the McLaren is their front wing, while most of the car has been changed. The engine cover, sidepods, floor, mirrors, and Halo fairings are all new.

Red Bull brought a revised rear suspension. As for Ferrari, they have a new front wing and floor to their SF-23.

After 15 minutes in the session, both Leclerc and Esteban Ocon went wide on the final corner, going through the run-off area but returning to the track with no damages.

Soon after that, Verstappen reported an issue with his rear wing endplate. He reported over the team radio: “Something is hanging loose from the right rear endplate. I don’t know exactly what it is.”

Both Williams drivers, Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant took their time before joining the track action, and started running after almost 20 minutes from the session start.

It seems nothing is wrong with Williams insisting they were “following their run plan”.

With FP1 being the only practice session this weekend, the teams quickly switched to long runs to try and gather as much data as possible for Sunday’s grand prix, as well as the Sprint.

Verstappen soon reported grip problems while on the Hard tyres, the front tyres, he said: “Front tyres are not really gripping up – fighting a lot of understeer.”

Pierre Gasly had a moment with Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll, the latter impeding the Frenchman who was on a timed lap. We will see so many other moments like this especially in Qualifying as traffic is infamous in Spielberg.

Gasly soon reported that his visor tear-off was stuck in the sidepod of his Alpine A523, while Alonso soon after ran wide at Turn 1. Sainz and Valtteri Bottas both had moments there as well.

The team switched back to Qualifying runs in the final 17 minutes of the session.

Nyck de Vries and Kevin Magnussen had a close call towards the end of the session, and the Dutchman was not impressed with the Dane’s antiques’.

How they finished

Verstappen clocked a 1:05.742 to go fastest around the Red Bull Ring, 0.241s faster than Sainz in the Ferrari, while Leclerc was third fastest, 0.029s further down the road.

Lewis Hamilton was fourth fastest in the Mercedes, 0.509s off the pace, with Perez fifth fastest in the Red Bull 0.011s behind the Briton.

Stroll was sixth fastest in the Aston Martin with a 1:06.340, ahead of Magnussen in the Haas, who was seventh and 0.157s slower than the Canadian.

Fernando Alonso was eighth fastest in the other Aston Martin, almost one second off the pace, keeping in mind he never used Soft tyres, while George Russell was ninth in the #63 Mercedes, 0.040s behind the Spaniard.

Zhou Guanyu was tenth in the Alfa Romeo, 1.038s away from the benchmark.

FP1 Official Results