Lewis Hamilton continued Mercedes’ ominous start to the delayed 2020 Formula 1 season as he and team-mate Valtteri Bottas comfortably led the way in second practice at the Austrian Grand Prix.
Hamilton and Bottas followed up their 1-2 position in the opening session by replicating those placings during the second 90-minute running at the Red Bull Ring.
When teams carried out runs on the red-banded Soft tyres on Friday afternoon Hamilton and Bottas led the way, with the six-time champion clocking a time of 1:04.304s.
That left him 0.197s clear of Bottas as the W11s cleared the rest of the field by some margin at the 10-turn circuit.
The W11 was fastest in all three sectors, with Hamilton clocking the best time in the first and last sectors, and Bottas quickest overall through the middle sector.
It left Hamilton 0.641s clear of the third-quickest driver, Racing Point’s Sergio Perez.
Racing Point catches the eye
Racing Point caused consternation pre-season when its RP20 appeared on track in Barcelona as onlookers quickly noted its similarities to last year’s title-winning Mercedes W10.
Racing Point accepted it had followed a similar design philosophy and took inspiration from the 2019 Mercedes, prompting rivals to place it as favourite for best-of-the-rest this season.
The ‘Pink Panthers’ were quick in the first session and again displayed pace in the afternoon.
Perez placed third while Lance Stroll, often battling to avoid Q1 elimination last season, was seventh fastest, within two-tenths of his experienced team-mate.
What about Ferrari and Red Bull?
Ferrari has had a difficult build-up to the delayed campaign amid the stories surrounding Sebastian Vettel’s impending exit and an acceptance that its SF1000 needed substantial revisions.
Those new components, triggered by a change in developmental direction after the results of pre-season testing were assessed, will not be ready until at least the third round in Hungary.
It means Ferrari’s SF1000 is running in the same specification as in Barcelona back in February, and on a circuit where it took pole position in 2019 it was off the pace.
Vettel, on his 33rd birthday, was fourth-fastest, 0.657s behind Hamilton, while Leclerc was even further back, placing ninth, almost a second down on the World Champion.
Red Bull, meanwhile, had a very subdued day at its home venue.
Both Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon had off-track excursions during the session, Verstappen running off at Turn 6 and Albon rotating his RB16 exiting Turn 1.
Verstappen was only eighth at the venue where he claimed back-to-back victories in 2018 and 2019 while Albon was a lowly 13th.
What of the rest?
Renault and McLaren showed glimpses of pace courtesy of Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris, taking fifth and sixth overall respectively.
It is an encouraging sign for Renault given their previous struggles at the short Red Bull Ring, where they have failed to take a point since returning to Formula 1 in 2016.
AlphaTauri, Alfa Romeo and Haas all failed to trouble the front of the midfield contingent while Williams displayed much-needed gains after its lacklustre 2019 campaign.
George Russell was 1.8s down on Hamilton – finishing within reach of Haas’ Romain Grosjean and AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly, and eclipsing Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen’s best time – as he finished 18th overall.
His team-mate Nicholas Latifi, the sole 2020 rookie, was adrift of the pack in 20th after a spin at Turn 1.
Final practice will begin on Saturday at 12:00 local time.