It was an interesting Friday in F1 Austrian GP with a close fight on top and the midfield, as there were more FP1 runners with tyre testing too.

The games between Mercedes and Red Bull are on after Friday in F1 Austrian GP, with both sharing the sessions, where Max Verstappen was quickest in FP1 and Lewis Hamilton in FP2. Naturally, both marked each other to be ahead at this stage.

It was a steady run, though, and both the F1 teams looks at a similar level with one step softer compounds. On their teammate side, Sergio Perez admitted to be struggling on the softest compound, whereas Valtteri Bottas felt good all-round.

Hamilton: “Red Bull definitely got something extra in their bag, I already know that. But I think we’ve made some small progress too, but I think they still have the two-tenths or maybe it’s a tenth and a half, something like that. Over a single lap, that felt OK, it felt pretty good, and I just expect them to turn up a little bit more. They’ve almost basically got the qualifying mode that we used to have. I don’t understand where they get it from, but it’s impressive and we’ve got to work hard to try and see if we can match it.

“It’s been a bit of a struggle in FP1, it was a bit of a struggle because I was just trying a different variant of the car and the car was unhappy, so then I had to make some more changes back, similar to what I had last week – some other adjustments – and it felt much better so I’m generally happy with where the car is. I’m probably not going to change too much. Because most often, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it… and most of the time we try to eke out more and it gets worst. So it’ll be the tiniest of tweaks.”

Verstappen: “Mercedes seem quite quick on the soft compound. From our side it wasn’t perfect on that run, but nevertheless I felt good in the car. Everything feels quite good – there are no real problems. We just need to make sure we have a bit more pace on the soft because on the medium we looked good and on the long runs we looked decent, and at the end of the day that’s the most important. I think it will be tight. They’ve definitely improved a bit. We’ll see in qualifying but most important is with these softer compounds to make them last in the race, so that’s also going to be a challenge.”

Behind the Top 2, the line-up isn’t clear, as Aston Martin seemingly looked quick on one-lap pace along with AlphaTauri, while Alpine, Ferrari and McLaren struggled mostly. Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll both made it in the Top 5 in FP2, but the duo are mindful and only hope that they are able to convert it in qualifying to make it in Q3.

While Aston Martin are in a hopeful side, AlphaTauri seems confident about their pace, with both Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda eyeing a double Q3 spot. For the first time, the Japanese F1 driver felt much more confident that his French teammate, who reckoned that he still chasing lost time from FP2 last weekend and also the grand prix.

At Alpine, it was about collecting data, where despite missing FP1, Fernando Alonso looked comfortable, while Esteban Ocon is trying to regain his lost confidence. For Ferrari and McLaren, both the F1 outfits felt they still have the pace, it was just that it didn’t show in the conditions across FP1 and FP2 sessions.

Gasly: “I think we were playing catch up today with the FP2 we missed last weekend and the race, so there were a lot of things we wanted to try in the long run, trying to understand the tyre and also the high fuel runs on my side. So, I think there were a lot of positives, the pace was still there; struggling a bit more in these conditions, so I think we need to make a couple of changes for and I believe we can have a bit more pace.”

Daniel Ricciardo: “It actually didn’t feel that bad, so I am a bit surprised with the classification. We’re just lacking a little bit. There’s nothing which feels out of place with balance in the car; I assume it’s probably just a little bit everywhere. And I know there’s not many corners here but maybe we’re just missing half a tenth everywhere and then obviously it adds up to… half a second or something and maybe that’s what we need.”

Charles Leclerc: “There’s still quite a lot of work to do to understand this C5 tyre – it’s the first time we use here and I don’t think we are on top yet of making them work in the optimum situation. So we still need to work on that, but overall it’s been quite a good day – our race pace is still as good as last week, and our quali pace, we are still working on it. We still haven’t found the small step that we need to be a bit further up, but we are working on it and hopefully we will find it.”

At Alfa Romeo, it was quite smooth and like the last few F1 weekends, Antonio Giovinazzi found his way into the Top 10, but the task will be converting it in qualifying and the race. For Williams and Haas, it was a similar case of working through their programme, as the former will be pushing on to have a repeat of what happened last weekend. Nikita Mazepin, meanwhile, added more the extreme set-up he ran which didn’t work.

The Friday had more happening with as many as three FP1 runners in the form of Guanyu Zhou, Callum Ilott and Roy Nissany, where the Chinese racer made his F1 debut in a race weekend. The teams also tested the prototype compound, which they wish to bring in from British GP onward. The difference is down more robustness on the rear. It was a positive one, but Mario Isola noted that they will continue running it in FP3 before deciding.

Mazepin: “This car has a difficult aero package – one of the most difficult I’ve driven. Coming from junior formulas, more aero balance means more oversteer, but in F1 it definitely doesn’t mean that, with things like the different way the tires work during the lap and all sorts of things that affect the warm-up. It’s quite extreme and not very straightforward I’d say. But we’re using these Friday practices to experiment with the set-up, and then try and divert both cars into something that could potentially give us a good gain.”

Zhou: “It felt special to drive FP1. I’m really happy with all my runs and I was able to get familiar with the tyres early on. I didn’t expect to be up to speed so quickly and the pace was definitely there on the Mediums. I felt good this morning, and I was getting more confident on each lap. I just wanted to build it up steadily and grow into the session. I’d like to thank the team for the opportunity, it was certainly very special. Hopefully I made everyone proud and there will be more moments like this later in my career.”

Isola: “The feedback from drivers was positive. Somebody found a bit more traction in the first laps and somebody commented that the new prototype is very similar to the current C4. At the end of the day, that was the target, because we know that the new construction is more robust, that we want to introduce it to have an additional margin on this new construction. But we didn’t want to change the behaviour and the balance or to ask the teams to make any set-up adjustments when they move to the new construction.

“That was confirmed in general. I didn’t receive any objections, I didn’t have any negative comments, I didn’t collect anything that is taking me to think that there is no good reason to introduce the prototype in Silverstone. We are going to receive the data tonight so we want to take a bit of time to analyse the data to finalise. Also, it is collecting the feedback also tomorrow morning. But to be honest, I don’t see a reason why we shouldn’t introduce it in Silverstone.”

Here’s how F1 Austrian GP FP1 panned out

Here’s how F1 Austrian GP FP2 panned out