Ferrari took the fight to Mercedes in Austria’s final practice on Saturday – Sebastian Vettel pipped Lewis Hamilton to the top spot by just 0.029s. Home team Red Bull slipped back, however, with Max Verstappen ending his session as a trackside spectator…
With the respective Mercedes and Ferrari of Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen running their team mates close in third and fourth, the Red Bulls of Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo took fifth and sixth spots, at least seven-tenths off the pace.
However, Verstappen parked his RB14 at Turn 5 with around 10 minutes to go after the car lost power with a suspected electrical issue. The Dutchman, who had a lengthy trip through the gravel earlier in the hour, will now be hoping the problem can be remedied for qualifying.
Hot on the Red Bulls’ heels were the Haas cars of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen – the only cars to use anything but the ultrasoft tyres – and the Renault of Carlos Sainz.
Charles Leclerc was again in the top ten for Sauber, though like Verstappen, he ran out of drive near the end of the hour, the Ferrari protege reporting a suspected engine issue.
Spielberg’s punishing kerbs continued to keep the drivers on their toes, with Brendon Hartley falling prey as he lost a front-wing endplate from his updated Toro Rosso, and Stoffel Vandoorne picking up some minor damage on his McLaren.
Both men ultimately finished low down the order, with only the struggling Williams of Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin behind them.
The good news for all teams was that the threatened rain held off and every driver completed at least 16 laps. The even better news for fans is that qualifying – with Ferrari and Mercedes so close – is going to be a humdinger.
The only question now is can Red Bull crash the party…