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Austrian Grand Prix 2016: Mercedes set the pace in first practice session

What went down in the morning session in Spielberg, Austria

P1 started bright and early on Friday morning and it didn’t take long to realise just how fast the Mercedes were around Spielberg.

Even in Practice both Mercedes, and soon both Ferrari’s, were well under the pole position time from last year as the combination of improved cars, a new surface and the ultra soft tyres pushed times down.

Sebastian Vettel, who was meant to be testing an updated version of the “Halo” safety device but decided forgo it after he was slow out of the garage and had to take a 5-place grid penalty for changing the race-day gearbox.

Lewis Hamilton caused some early chaos by spinning off and then backing onto the track much to the surprise of Romain Grosjean who was coming up the road behind him and had to spin to avoid him. Hamilton wasn’t the only driver to take an off-road adventure in the morning sunshine, team-mate Nico Rosberg took a trip over the gravel at turn three, only for Max Verstappen moments later to run wide at turn 4 & 5 and go over the raised yellow “baguettes” on the extreme outside of the track. Those baguettes broke the steering arm on his front right and he cruised into the gravel trap and beached the car. That bought out the virtual safety car and ended his session.

Once allowed to get back up to speed the parade of cars falling off the track continued as everyone began finding the limits of the new surface. Ryo Harayanto came off and then rejoined across the front of Daniel Ricciardo in a rather dangerous way. Daniil Kvyat spun at turn two and had to burn up his tyres to get the Toro Rosso back around.

In the end though, the incredibly fast Mercedes were the cars to beat. Ferrari were probably closer today than they will be tomorrow when all the engines get turned up to 11. F1’s current golden boy Sergio Perez wasn’t out in P1 as Force India gave the session to test driver Alfonso Celis Jr.

5RICRed Bull1:08.528
6SAIToro Rosso1:08.803
8VPNRed Bull1:08.962
9KVYToro Rosso1:08.990
11GROHaas F11:09.078
12HULForce India1:09.280
19GUTHaas F11:10.110
22CELForce India1:10.860

Toby Durant

A passionate and opinionated writer, I am currently the NFL editor for RealSport. However, I also contribute to F1, WWE, Football, and other sections of the site, and I have covered the NFL International Series for RealSport and previously contributed to SB Nation.


I also have 10 years playing and coaching experience in American football, starting at the University of Nottingham and including a stint as defensive coordinator at Oxford Brookes University. I may be a Patriots fan but all aspects of the sport interest me, from guard play to special teams.

Austrian Grand Prix 2016: Mercedes set the pace in first practice session

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