The quickest cars lapped the Red Bull Ring in 65 seconds today. Tomorrow the lap times could dip as low as 64 or even 63 seconds.
As a result the gaps between the quickest cars are much closer than usual. At the end of second practice the top five – two Mercedes, two Red Bulls and Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari – were separated by less than four tenths of a second.
Yet despite the slender margin over its rivals Mercedes enjoyed on Friday, Lewis Hamilton was very satisfied with the W08’s performance on day one. “It’s been a really good Friday with no major headaches to complain about so far,” he reported. “The car feels fantastically fast here. There’s already a nice balance and it feels good out on track.”
Ferrari can draw some encouragement from how close Vettel was to Hamilton’s one-lap pace. The world championship leader has been reacquainted with the new engine he used during practice in Azerbaijan but had to remove before the race. Qualifying was a disappointment for him two weeks ago, but here he may again have the chance to split the Mercedes.
The ultra-narrow margins between the drivers is going to make for an exciting hour of qualifying. A slight set-up error or a driving mistake could have serious consequences, especially in the closely-fought midfield.
On the strength of Friday’s running one team which is well-placed to capitalise is McLaren. Honda’s new spec three power unit appears to have brought some improvement, however modest, allowing Fernando Alonso to post the eighth-fastest time today.
In contrast it looks like being a very tough weekend for Sauber, who laboured over a second slower than any other team with their year-old Ferrari power units.
Longest stint comparison – second practice
This chart shows all the drivers’ lap times (in seconds) during their longest unbroken stint. Very slow laps omitted. Scroll to zoom, drag to pan, right-click to reset:
Complete practice times by tyre
2017 Austrian Grand Prix
- Mercedes are confident despite close times on short track
- Red Bull Ring kerbs weren’t designed for F1 – Verstappen
- 2017 Austrian Grand Prix team radio highlights: Practice
- Hamilton and Vettel lead the way in second practice
- 2017 Austrian Grand Prix practice in pictures