SPIELBERG, Austria (AP) — Red Bull driver Max Verstappen posted the fastest time and Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton lacked pace in the second practice session for the Styrian Grand Prix on Friday.
Verstappen was .043 seconds quicker than Valtteri Bottas — Hamilton’s teammate at Mercedes — and .217 ahead of Racing Point driver Sergio Perez.
“The car already feels better than last week, the balance is a lot nicer and we have made a good step,” said Verstappen, who did not finish last Sunday’s season-opening Austrian GP after starting from second.
“It is too early to say how we are looking against Mercedes, but we are quite happy. We have tried a few different directions to understand the car a bit more and we are heading the right way.”
Hamilton was only sixth fastest, about .7 seconds slower than Verstappen. Hamilton spent a chunk of time in the garage while his team worked on his car.
“It was quite far off, so there’s a lot of work to do in the background to figure it out,” he said. “Others out there are quick and Valtteri’s obviously got good pace.”
Despite adding a new front wing to its car, struggling Ferrari had a dismal afternoon.
Charles Leclerc was only ninth quickest and one second slower than Verstappen, while teammate Sebastian Vettel lagged about two seconds behind Verstappen in 16th.
Daniel Ricciardo lost control of his Renault car early into the second session, swerving left off the track and thudding backward into a protective tire wall. He climbed out unharmed, other than a slight limp, but the left rear tire was mangled and the car was lifted off the track by a crane.
Alexander Albon spun twice, the Red Bull driver’s second spin taking him right off the track and into gravel.
Earlier, Perez was fastest in the first practice ahead of Verstappen and Bottas, with Hamilton fourth quickest and Vettel only 10th in sunny conditions.
That session was briefly interrupted when Nicholas Latifi’s Williams car pulled over to the side with a gearbox issue.