First practice at the Red Bull Ring was rather eventful. Nico Rosberg came out on top ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton, in a seeming replica of qualifying at the Monaco Grand Prix.
Predictably, nearly all drivers struggled for grip in the rainy, wet conditions in Austria and ran afoul of the eighth corner. Hamilton was on course for the fastest lap but erred, giving Rosberg the top position at the end of practice and a 0.308second lead.
Hamilton, who like Rosberg and a few other drivers ran wide at turn eight, was audibly irritated and expressed his annoyance over team radio. Engineers asked him to make changes to car settings, to which Hamilton angrily retorted “How many changes do you guys want me to do, can I just focus on driving?"
Rosberg had started a second ahead of Hamilton, who closed in on his teammate and set the fastest sector time before going wide at Turn 8 and losing his lead.
Honda’s engine upgrades, being used by Fernando Alonso, did not yield any results whatsoever. Alonso, who will take a 20-place grid penalty as a result of these upgrades, did not see much track time, with the vehicle, which has an upgraded internal combustion engine, turbo and MGU-H – coming to a halt even before the former World Champion could complete a single lap. His car remained in the garage until the last 15 minutes of the practice session.
In what has seemingly become standard practice for them, Alonso and teammate Jenson Button, who is also a former world champion, finished 16th and 17th on the grid.
Several drivers, including Hamilton, Rosberg, Kimi Raikkonen, Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jr of Toro Rosso, Daniil Kvyat of Red Bull, Lotus’ Pastor Maldonado and Sergio Perez of Force India all had issues with Turn 8. Verstappen did extremely well in the end however, coming back from this to finish 8th at the end of FP1.
Raikkonen’s teammate, four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel suffered engine problems as well, four laps into his race. He retired from practice thereafter, with his car unable to run.
There was some action in the pit too, with Felipe Massa of Williams narrowly missing Maurizio Arrivabene, principal of Massa’s former team, Ferrari as the Italian was walking back to the garage just as Massa was released from the pit lane.
Sauber, which has recently seen some unpleasant times, did well at this race, with Felipe Nasr finishing practice in 5th place.
Nico Rosberg was on top, followed by teammate Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari and his compatriot Valtteri Bottas of Williams, who had his first podium of the year at the Canadian Grand Prix, and Brazilian driver Nasr.
Second practice will begin at 6:00p.m. IST.