Spielberg, Austria, Jul 10 (efe-epa).- Dutch Red Bull driver Max Verstappen posted the fastest time in Friday’s second free practice at the Styrian Grand Prix, the second race on the coronavirus-altered 2020 Formula One calendar.
Racing at the same venue – the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria, his team’s home track – that was used for last weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix, Verstappen led the way with a best lap of 1:03.660 in FP2.
Earlier in the day, he finished second behind Mexican Racing Point driver Sergio Perez in FP1.
The 22-year-old Verstappen, winner of the 2018 and 2019 editions of the Austrian Grand Prix, is off to an auspicious start five days after being forced to retire from the first race of the season due to an electrical problem on his Red-Bull Honda.
He narrowly bested Finnish Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas, who won the season’s first race and clocked a fastest lap (1:03.703) in FP2 that was just 43-thousandths of second slower than Verstappen’s.
Perez’s time of 1:03.877 was better than his FP1-winning time and good enough for third, while English Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton – winner of five of the last six F1 World Drivers’ Championship titles – finished sixth in FP2.
“I think we’ve made a good step,” Verstappen was quoted as saying on the F1’s official website. “Of course it’s still too early to say how we are looking against Mercedes, but for our side I think we are quite happy. I’m happy – the balance is a lot nicer to drive as well so that’s good.”
The second practice session was halted for a few minutes after Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo crashed into the barriers at the ninth turn.
The Australian driver was examined by team doctors and given the green light to race, although his car suffered visible damage to its front and rear wings, according to the F1’s official website.
The drivers enjoyed good weather for Friday’s two free practice sessions, which ended in the late afternoon with an air temperature of 31 C (88 F) and a track temperature of 44 C.
But with thunderstorms in the forecast for Saturday and the threat of rain on Sunday morning as well, there is a chance that FP3 and the qualifying sessions will be washed out.
Should the qualifying be scrapped, the FP2 times will determine the starting grid for Sunday afternoon’s first-ever running of the Styrian GP.
Bottas currently leads the 2020 World Drivers’ Championship after one race with 25 points, while Monagasque Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc is second with 18 points, British McLaren driver Lando Norris is third with 16 points and Hamilton is fourth with 12 points.
Formula One thus far has announced a 2020 calendar of just eight races. All will be held behind closed doors due to the pandemic and all will take place in Europe. EFE-EPA