Dutch racing marvel Max Verstappen, in his powerful Red Bull, ruled the track on Friday, leading the pack in the first free practice session for the much-anticipated Austrian Grand Prix. Leaving his rivals trailing in his wake, Verstappen put on an impressive performance that bodes well for his prospects this Sunday.
The Spanish powerhouse, Carlos Sainz Jr., demonstrated Ferrari's competitive edge by clocking the second-fastest time. Close behind him was his teammate, Monegasque driver Charles Leclerc, showcasing the strength of the Ferrari team this season.
The Briton Lewis Hamilton, a seven-time world champion representing Mercedes, was not far off, securing the fourth spot. Despite a strong showing, Hamilton is yet to clinch his first victory since his 2021 triumph. During the hour of intense driving, Hamilton relayed to his team, "The car looks okay," a statement indicative of his hope for improved performance in the upcoming races.
Absence of Perez Felt on the Track
In a surprising turn of events, Sergio Perez of Red Bull, currently second in the overall standings and trailing 69 points behind Verstappen after eight of the scheduled 22 races, was notably absent on Thursday.
The Red Bull team reported Perez's inability to hit the track due to illness, a development that could potentially impact the overall standing.
1st Free Practice Session:
Max Verstappen (NED/Red Bull) 1:05.742 (30 laps), Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP/Ferrari) 1:05.983 (32), Charles Leclerc (MON/Ferrari) 1:06.012 (33), Lewis Hamilton (GBR/Mercedes) 1:06.251 (34), Sergio Pérez (MEX/Red Bull) 1:06.262 (32), Lance Stroll (CAN/Aston Martin-Mercedes) 1:06.340 (29), Kevin Magnussen (DEN/Haas-Ferrari) 1:06.497 (27), Fernando Alonso (ESP/Aston Martin-Mercedes) 1:06.656 (31), George Russell (GBR/Mercedes) 1:06.696 (28), Zhou Guanyu (CHN/Alfa Romeo-Ferrari) 1:06.780 (33), Alexander Albon (THA/Williams-Mercedes) 1:06.794 (23), Oscar Piastri (AUS/McLaren-Mercedes) 1:06.809 (36), Nico Hülkenberg (GER/Haas-Ferrari) 1:06.846 (30), Valtteri Bottas (FIN/Alfa Romeo-Ferrari) 1:06.847 (33), Yuki Tsunoda (JPN/AlphaTauri-Red Bull) 1:06.985 (34), Nyck de Vries (NED/AlphaTauri-Red Bull) 1:07.017 (36), Logan Sargeant (USA/Williams-Mercedes) 1:07.018 (25), Esteban Ocon (FRA/Alpine-Renault) 1:07.202 (30), Pierre Gasly (FRA/Alpine-Renault) 1:07.287 (28), Lando Norris (GBR/McLaren-Mercedes) 1:07.368 (20)