Max Verstappen has gone marginally quicker than Valtteri Bottas to set the pace in a potentially crucial second practice session for the Styrian Grand Prix.
Verstappen ended up on top on the second Friday of 2020 at the Red Bull Ring with a 1:03.660s, a time which saw him usurp Bottas, the previous pace-setter, by 0.043s.
Those results would have the #33 Red Bull on pole and last weekend’s race-winning Mercedes starting alongside if forecast thunderstorms on Saturday and continued poor weather into Sunday do indeed prevent Qualifying from going ahead.
Racing Point duo Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll finished Practice 2 and the day as a whole in third and fourth respectively, the former 0.217s slower than the fast man and the latter another 0.364s back.
Carlos Sainz was fifth in a McLaren while Lewis Hamilton wound up only sixth at 0.688s off the pace in the second factory Mercedes.
The session was still only coming to life when Daniel Ricciardo backed his Renault into the barriers and drew a red flag in the 14th minute, without having set a lap time.
Perez, who was quickest in Practice 1, had just gone fastest with a 1:05.296s on the medium compound C3 tyres, before a green flag just over 10 minutes later marked a switch to the soft compound C4 tyres for several.
It was nevertheless Hamilton and then Bottas to the top on mediums with a 1:05.088s and 1:04.999s respectively, before Lando Norris moved the marker to a 1:04.961s on soft tyres in the 29th minute.
The McLaren driver’s effort was bettered by Stroll before the Canadian’s time was deleted for a breach of track limits, but a Racing Point went faster on merit when Perez laid down a 1:04.087s soon after.
Perez clocked a 1:03.877s in the 42nd minute and when half of the 90-minute hit-out had elapsed, he held sway from Bottas and Verstappen, who had suffered a temporary issue which left him with “no power” from fourth or fifth gear earlier in the session.
Verstappen’s best time had, to that point, been set on mediums, and he closed to 0.114s away from Perez’s best on softs in the 49th minute only to see the time deleted.
Bottas put a factory Mercedes on top with a 1:03.703s a few minutes later, but team-mate Lewis Hamilton’s subsequent improvement was to just a 1:04.406s.
Verstappen did nail a soft tyre lap a few minutes before the hour came up, and the 1:03.660s stood up for the remaining half-hour of proceedings as drivers began to switch to race runs.
Hamilton found a little more time, going 0.688s slower than the new benchmark, but remained sixth.
Alexander Albon, who spun his Red Bull at Turn 3 on softs during the qualifying simulations and at the Turn 7/Turn 8 complex on hards on a later race run, finished up seventh.
Norris was eighth, but if it does come to pass that the starting grid is set on Practice 2 results, then he will line up in 11th as it stands due to a grid penalty for passing under yellows in the earlier 90-minute session.
Charles Leclerc was first of the Ferrari drivers in ninth, 1.086s away from Verstappen, and Esteban Ocon rounded out the top 10 in the surviving factory Renault.
Sebastian Vettel went only marginally quicker than his Practice 1 best with a 1:05.613s in the #5 Scuderia Ferrari entry.
Practice 3 is scheduled to start on Saturday at 20:00 AEST, followed by Qualifying from 23:00.
Results: Practice 1
|1||11||Sergio Perez||Racing Point BWT Mercedes||1:04.867|
|2||33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing Honda||1:04.963||+0.096|
|5||18||Lance Stroll||Racing Point BWT Mercedes||1:05.396||+0.529|
|6||23||Alexander Albon||Red Bull Racing Honda||1:05.483||+0.616|
|7||55||Carlos Sainz||McLaren Renault||1:05.602||+0.735|
|8||10||Pierre Gasly||AlphaTauri Honda||1:05.698||+0.831|
|11||26||Daniil Kvyat||AlphaTauri Honda||1:05.815||+0.948|
|14||4||Lando Norris||McLaren Renault||1:05.908||+1.041|
|15||7||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari||1:06.441||+1.574|
|16||8||Romain Grosjean||Haas Ferrari||1:06.446||+1.579|
|17||40||Jack Aitken||Williams Mercedes||1:06.768||+1.901|
|18||88||Robert Kubica||Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari||1:06.797||+1.930|
|19||6||Nicholas Latifi||Williams Mercedes||1:09.598||+4.731|
|20||20||Kevin Magnussen||Haas Ferrari|
Results: Practice 2
|1||33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing Honda||1:03.660|
|3||11||Sergio Perez||Racing Point BWT Mercedes||1:03.877||+0.217|
|4||18||Lance Stroll||Racing Point BWT Mercedes||1:04.241||+0.581|
|5||55||Carlos Sainz||McLaren Renault||1:04.333||+0.673|
|7||23||Alexander Albon||Red Bull Racing Honda||1:04.437||+0.777|
|8||4||Lando Norris||McLaren Renault||1:04.541||+0.881|
|11||10||Pierre Gasly||AlphaTauri Honda||1:04.757||+1.097|
|12||26||Daniil Kvyat||AlphaTauri Honda||1:05.050||+1.390|
|13||7||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari||1:05.152||+1.492|
|14||99||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari||1:05.365||+1.705|
|15||63||George Russell||Williams Mercedes||1:05.588||+1.928|
|17||6||Nicholas Latifi||Williams Mercedes||1:05.655||+1.995|
|18||20||Kevin Magnussen||Haas Ferrari||1:05.790||+2.130|
|19||8||Romain Grosjean||Haas Ferrari||1:06.096||+2.436|