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Verstappen set ominous pace to top vital Austrian practice session

Max Verstappen emerged from the one-and-only Free Practice session as the fastest driver ahead of the Ferrari duo of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc.

In the one practice session ahead of Austrian Grand Prix qualifying, Red Bull's Max Verstappen topped the 60-minute session on Medium tyres ahead of the two Ferraris.

With a Sprint weekend looking to punish any inefficient use of testing time, all 20 drivers appeared to maximise their running ahead of Friday qualifying for the race at the Red Bull Ring.

After lengthy race simulations, practice honours were fought between Verstappen and the two Ferraris, with Sainz initially setting the pace with a 1:05.983 on the Soft tyres.

However, a late lap from Verstappen on Medium tyres toppled the Ferrari driver. On his second timed lap - and after three cool-down laps - the championship leader set an ominous time of 1:05.742 to top the session by over two tenths of a second on a harder tyre compound.

The Red Bull drivers are yet to use the Soft tyres, so will head into the qualifying session with no experience of the fastest available tyre at the Red Bull Ring.

With drivers attempting to gain as much tyre knowledge as possible from the first 40 minutes of the session, Lewis Hamilton topped the early running with a lap of 1:06.416 on the Hard tyres, ahead of Verstappen (Hard) and Alonso (Medium), who were all covered by one-quarter of a second.

In the pure simulation runs, Hamilton appeared to be running at a more competitive pace than Verstappen. The Mercedes driver completed average long-run lap times in the mid-1:10s, with the Red Bull driver in the high-1:10s.

Ferrari, however, were strangely over one second off the pace on their Hard-tyre runs, albeit with the usual caveats of not knowing fuel loads and power modes.

Hamilton's pace on the harder tyres could not be extrapolated into Soft tyre pace, with the Mercedes driver ending the session in P4 and half-a-second off the pace.

The second Red Bull of Sergio Perez finished in P5, with the Mexican appearing nowhere near the pace required to mount a challenge so far this weekend.

Lance Stroll took sixth for Aston Martin, ahead of Haas' Kevin Magnussen and teammate Fernando Alonso, who had several off-track moments as he grappled with the AMR23 car.

George Russell placed his Mercedes in P9, with Alfa Romeo's Zhou Guanyu completing the top ten for Alfa Romeo.

Result Free practice 1 - Austrian

# Driver Team Time Tyre
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F1 2023 Austrian Grand Prix RN365 News dossier

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