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Advantage Vettel in FP3

NEWS STORY
30/06/2018

Ahead of today's sole practice session the air temperature is 21 degrees C, while the track temperature is 31 degrees.

While yesterday was overcast, today and tomorrow are expected to be much brighter, though we know from experiences that in the Styrian Alps conditions can quickly change. Indeed, despite the sunshine race control warns of a 60% chance of rain.

Lewis Hamilton led a Mercedes 1-2 in both of yesterday's sessions, the German team benefiting from a raft of aero upgrades on a track it clearly enjoys. That said, both drivers complained of balance issues and understeer.

On the race sims in FP2 however, both Ferraris showed strong pace, and therefore all is not lost for the Italian team.

Ironically, Red Bull doesn't expect to go well at the eponymous circuit, the team's cause not helped by the fact that Max Verstappen damaged his floor on the unforgiving kerbs.

Indeed a number of drivers incurred damage in the encounters with the kerbs, Pierre Gasly bringing FP2 to a halt when he broke his front suspension at T9 and Stoffel Vandoorne cracking his nose. Indeed, it was subsequently revealed that over the course of the two sessions the Faenza outfit damaged three noses.

Best of the rest yesterday was Haas, though the American outfit, which has had more than its fair share of bad luck this season, saw Kevin Magnussen suffer issues in both sessions.

Behind Haas it was a real mixture and it will be this morning's session, as the teams look ahead to qualifying, that all - or at least most - should be revealed.

Overnight rain means yesterday's rubber has been washed away, so the drivers will effectively have to start again from scratch this morning.

Alonso is first out when the lights go green, the Spaniard followed by Ericsson, Grosjean and Vandoorne.

"I nearly hit a guy from Toro Rosso," says Grosjean, "he was running out as I came in." That makes a change, unsafe release of pit crew.

Talking of Haas and unsafe releases, the American outfit was fined for the incident in FP2 when Magnussen left his pit slot with his left-front not properly attached. Even though the Dane travelled a few feet - and the team claimed that the incident demonstrated the efficiency of its system - a 5,000 euro fine was imposed.

While most pit, Raikkonen is the only one of the early runners to remain out for a second lap, the Finn posting 1:05.839. He subsequently improves to 5.314.

Despite the apparent threat of rain, for several minutes Raikkonen and Alonso have the track to themselves.

Vandoorne and Gasly head out to join Raikkonen and Alonso as the Finn improves to 4.937 and the Spaniard posts 6.336.

"Synchronise all the gears before T3 if you can," Hartley is told.

Vandoorne posts the third time of the day, the Belgian stopping the clock at 6.556.

"Back off, back off and box, do not use full throttle" Gasly is told as Sainz posts 6.124 to go second.

Alonso improves to retake second, but remains 1.122s off Raikkonen's pace.

A 5.045 sees Bottas go second as Vettel posts an exploratory 23.264. Next time around the German improves to 4.920.

Bottas is warned of a headwind into T1 and a tailwind into the infamous T4 - a corner which saw a number of drivers caught out yesterday.

As Raikkonen improves to 4.937 to take back second, Bottas is told he is braking "a bit late" at T4.

Hamilton's first flying lap (5.049) sees the world champion go fourth.

18 minutes in and only 11 drivers have posted a time, Ricciardo, Stroll, Verstappen and Sirotkin yet to appear.

A 4.672 sees Hamilton go top, just 0.027s clear of Vettel, Ferrari appearing to have turned up the wick a little.

Bottas responds with a 4.594 as Vettel goes quickest in S1. The German loses pace in S2 but a strong S3 sees him go second with a 4.600.

Ricciardo is the first of the Bulls to head out as Grosjean goes fifth with a 5.376.

Ricciardo posts 5.472 to go sixth.

In the McLaren garage it appears Vandoorne has incurred further front wing damage following an excursion over the kerbs.

With 34:00 remaining, Verstappen heads out. As he passes a stand filled with supporters the Red Bull driver gets a huge cheer. He crosses the line at 5.375 to go fifth.

Incidentally, almost all the times have been posted on ultras, though Grosjean - currently sixth - is on supers and teammate Magnussen (11th) also.

As Ricciardo reports that his car is nervous at the rear, Gasly expresses his unease with Ocon's antics. "Honestly guys, he's a ******* idiot," declares the Toro Rosso driver, "he's been doing this to me all weekend."

As he seeks to improve on 6th (5.191), Verstappen runs wide and takes a run through the gravel at T4.

Work continues on both cars in the McLaren garage.

Before the qualifying sims, Bottas, Vettel and Hamilton are covered by just 0.078s.

A PB in S1 is followed by a purple in S2 before Raikkonen gets it all wrong and runs wide in T7.

The cameras pick up on a discarded significantly large piece of front wing from Hartley's car at T9. "Okay I think I hit the kerb please check the car," admits the kiwi.

Showing no ill effects from his previous off, Raikkonen now goes quickest in S1 as Verstappen goes fourth overall with a 4.918.

A poor middle sector is followed by a PB in S3 as Raikkonen goes quickest with a 4.470.

"The steering is not straight, it is pulling to the left," warns Gasly. "Something is not right."

Back on track, Alonso posts a PB in S1 as he improves to eighth with a 5.448.

Vettel is back on track on fresh ultras. Posting a PB in S1 he goes quickest in S2 before following up with another PB inS3, a 4.159 sees him go top.

On fresh ultras Bottas splits the Ferraris with a 4.204 as Vettel ups the ante with a 4.070.

In the Red Bull garage Verstappen's car is up on its stand as work is carried out, a lot of attention being paid to the front suspension.

With 15:30 remaining, Hamilton heads out on fresh ultras.

The Haas duo remain the only drivers yet to try the purple-banded rubber in this session.

Despite a poor opening sector, Hamilton posts a PB in S2. A purple in S3 sees him improve to second with a 4.099, just 0.029s off Vettel's best.

As Bottas fails to improve, Ricciardo posts PBs in the first two sectors, finally crossing the line at 4.891 to go fifth.

Verstappen is back on track.

"Looks like just the straights that are the only loss to Vettel," Hamilton is told, not a claim we were expecting to hear.

A 4.791 sees Verstappen leapfrog his teammate for fifth.

Leclerc goes ninth with a 5.558, just 1.488s off the pace for the Sauber driver. Teammate Ericsson is an impressive twelfth (5.699).

Check out our Saturday gallery from Spielberg, here.

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