Lewis Hamilton praises 'fantastically fast' Mercedes in Austria

Lewis Hamilton hailed a “fantastically fast” Mercedes W08 as he led the way during both Friday practice sessions for the Austrian Grand Prix.

Hamilton, who triumphed at the venue 12 months ago, clocked the quickest time in the opening session and improved in the afternoon, registering a lap of 1:05.483 on the Ultrasoft tyres.

It left Hamilton 0.147s clear of title rival Sebastian Vettel as he bids to close the deficit to the Ferrari driver in the championship.

“It's been a really good Friday with no major headaches to complain about so far,” said Hamilton.

“We had to swap out a spark plug during FP2, but the guys did a great job to turn the car around and we still managed to complete our programme.

“Most importantly, the car feels fantastically fast here. There's already a nice balance and it feels good out on track.

“This car is so quick in comparison to what we raced here last year. It's tricky, but a proper thrill to hook up a lap.

“The team is in good spirits and we're all up for another exciting fight with the Ferraris this weekend.”

Team-mate Valtteri Bottas placed third in both sessions, having spun both in the morning and the afternoon, but feels he can learn from his errors.

“It was great to see that the upgrades the team worked so hard to deliver for this weekend worked straight out of the box,” he said.

“Aerodynamically we've made another step forward from Baku, which is encouraging.

“This track punishes you if you make a mistake, and I tested those limits, but that's something I can learn from and build upon for the rest of the weekend.

“The balance of the car feels good and we'll fine tune the setup some more tonight to be ready for qualifying.”