Verstappen overcomes engine issue to lead Austrian GP practice

Max Verstappen topped the sole practice session of the sprint weekend Austrian Grand Prix despite an engine drama in his Red Bull Racing car briefly causing a mid-hour red flag.

Verstappen’s session appeared over just after the hallway mark when his car developed an engine fault after 16 laps of running. The car appeared to lose power exiting the penultimate corner, and it ground to a halt on the main straight, causing a brief red flag.

The Dutchman cannily allowed himself to roll backwards along the pit wall towards an access gate, where marshals were able to push him back into pit lane before the session resumed. With the car back in its garage, Red Bull Racing was able to restart the engine and clear the fault, and Verstappen was able to resume the session without losing any track time.


The problem mystified the Dutchman, with the only clues to the fault being a wide moment over the curbs at the first turn and then a differential switch change just before the problem cropped up, though it was unclear if either incident was related.

It will be concerning to the team, driver and power unit manufacturer Honda, however, with a grid penalty already likely for a failure during practice for the Canadian Grand Prix earlier this month. The delay ultimately caused him no trouble, however, and he went on to set the benchmark at 1m05.685s.

Oscar Piastri pushed him closest for McLaren, the Australian lapping 0.276s slower than the Dutchman. Lando Norris would likely have joined them battling for the top two places, but the Briton botched his single flying lap on fresh softs after setting a tantalizing purple first sector, understeering through the downhill Turn 4 and sailing through the gravel.

The error came too late in the session for the Miami Grand Prix winner to regroup, leaving him down in 13th. Norris had earlier reported a steering abnormality, with right-hand turns feeling heavier than lefts.

Ferrari started the weekend with third and fourth for Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, 0.37s and 0.443s off the pace respectively, but both look vulnerable to Lewis Hamilton behind. The Mercedes driver was 0.569s off the pace but used the hard tire to set his best time much earlier in the session, hinting at considerably more performance to come.

Esteban Ocon was sixth for Alpine ahead of Lance Stroll and George Russell, the last-named likewise using only the hard tire in the second Mercedes.

Yuki Tsunoda was ninth in a mixed-specification RB car. The Italian team has equipped both Tsunoda and Daniel Ricciardo — the Australian finished 16th — with a combination of new parts, bits from the Spanish Grand Prix upgrade and components predating Barcelona in a bid to diagnose its downturn in form last weekend. Tsunoda ended the hour 0.894s off the pace, with Ricciardo a further 0.383s back.

Fernando Alonso completed thet top 10 ahead of Pierre Gasly, Sergio Perez and the stricken Norris.

Zhou Guanyu led Sauber teammate Valtteri Bottas in 14th and 15th ahead of Ricciardo, Nico Hulkenberg, Alex Albon, Kevin Magnussen and Logan Sargeant at the rear of the field.


Story originally appeared on Racer