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What the teams said – Friday in Austria

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SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JULY 03: Pierre Gasly of France driving the (10) Scuderia AlphaTauri AT01

The drivers and teams report back on all the action from Friday practice at the Formula 1 Rolex Grosser Preis Von Österreich Grand Prix 2020...

Mercedes

Picking up where they left off in testing, Mercedes were dominant today. Topping the leaderboard in both sessions, Hamilton was quick from the off, despite testing the track limits through the final corner. Bottas meanwhile trailed his team mate by a couple of tenths in each session, and had a minor technical issue towards the end of the day, but was feeling confident heading into the weekend.

Lewis Hamilton - FP1: 1:04.816, P1; FP2: 1:04.304, P1

"It's great to be back. It's been a long time coming. The new car obviously feels different than the 2018 car we got to test at Silverstone a few weeks ago, but I think we have also been able to continue to improve the car compared to last year, so that's a big positive. The track was a little bit greasy and while the grip will pick up, it feels like the track only improved a very small amount. It was looking good out there today, but you can never take too much from practice. You never know what power and fuel other teams are running. So we will take today's result with a pinch of salt, try and improve the car tonight and come back for the fight tomorrow."

Valtteri Bottas - FP1: 1:05.172, P2; FP2: 1:04.501, P2

"It's fantastic to be back in the car. I've really enjoyed every single lap, every single run. We've been making good progress throughout the day, step by step, as it is to be expected after such a long break. It was a decent day overall, although we had a small problem with my car towards the end. The grip level was pretty low today, but I'm sure the track will ramp up over the course of the weekend. We need to stay on top of that as that can change the set-up quite a bit on this track. The main challenge will be to get the balance right for both high-speed and low-speed corners and fine tune the car for that single lap on Saturday, while keeping our race pace in mind as well. It's only Friday, the lap times will come down tomorrow with the track improving, with additional performance items from all the teams and with the drivers pushing hard, so it will be interesting to find out where we stand."

Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director

"It's great to be back at the track after such a long time. We have quite a few new developments on the car since it last ran in winter testing, so we've had a busy day checking that they were all working as expected. We've had a couple of little niggles that got in the way of running today for both drivers; Lewis had a telemetry outage at the start of the second session that held us up and Valtteri stopped early after a gearbox problem. We're still looking into Valtteri's problem, at the moment we don't know what has caused it. This circuit hasn't been kind to us in recent years, but the car seemed to be working reasonably well from the start this year. We've still got work to do on the balance but more relevant is that we're expecting a much hotter track tomorrow that will put the tyres into a different working window. Our pace seemed competitive today, but we don't really know where everyone is in terms of fuel or engine modes and we tend to see everything close up when the temperatures go up."

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SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JULY 03: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes W11 on track during practice for the F1 Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on July 03, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Red Bull

A mixed day for the Bulls at their home race. The RB16 looked quick on paper, especially in the hands of Verstappen who is looking for a hat-trick of wins here. But it also looked tricky to handle, with the Dutchman damaging his front wing after running wide over the high kerbs and having a foray into the gravel for good measure. Albon had a quieter day on the timing sheets but did throw in a spin for good measure as he got to grips with his 2020 charger.

Max Verstappen - FP1: 1:05.418, P3; FP2: 1:05.215, P8

“It felt good to be back in the car and after a few laps you are quite easily back into the rhythm. Overall it was a positive day, the car was handling well and I’m pleased with the number of laps we did which is really important after such a long break. The lap times don’t really say anything because I broke my front wing on the push lap, so we had to fit a different wing. I think we were a little too aggressive for that and I had a spin and a little off, but nothing major. The kerbs are what they are here and it’s the same for everyone, the front wing doesn’t really like the yellow kerbs so we do have to be careful. We are I think confident and there are always things we can do better but overall it was a good day and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”

Alex Albon - FP1: 1:05.701, P7; FP2: 1:05.453, P13

“Today felt pretty good and it was nice to be back in the car. I’m happy and excited that we’re back underway and I think everyone was on it straight away which I was quite surprised about! It’s been a long time since we did this amount of running so there’s a lot to look through now ahead of tomorrow. There are a couple of things we need to work on, and there’s always a bit of time in your driving and set-up, so we’ll see where we are tomorrow but we know what to do. You’ve got to build up to the limit here as the kerbs are dangerous and some of them can be front wing killers if you hit them too hard. But overall the car felt good, I feel good, and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”

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SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JULY 03: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Aston Martin Red Bull Racing RB16 on track during practice for the F1 Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on July 03, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

Ferrari

The Scuderia chose to focus on race pace in FP1, but bolted on a set of the soft compound tyres for some qualifying simulation runs in second practice. From these they look there or thereabouts towards the front, albeit possibly in a scrap with Racing Point for the third row. Are Ferrari sandbagging, or do they have a big chunk of time to make up on their rivals already?

Sebastian Vettel - FP1: 1:06.077, P12; FP2: 1:04.961, P4

"I think we had a decent day. We didn’t have any trouble with the cars. It was good for us all to be back at the track and it was good to see that the team got up to speed fairly quickly and had no problems running through all the procedures. In terms of speed and competitiveness, it was an interesting day. I think we’ve seen that we are not at the top, that we are not the favourites.

"And then there is a lot of stuff going on behind that, and it’s very tight. So, we will see, I think tomorrow will be a big day. I don’t think we will be fighting for pole, but we must try to be the best of those behind that battle. We didn’t take much notice of the teams around us to be honest, as it’s always difficult to predict what sort of fuel loads people are running. I think we will see tomorrow, because we haven’t got a clear picture today.

"It’s up to us to develop and work so that the car gets faster. We’re lacking grip and downforce compared to others. So it’s a mix of all these things."

Charles Leclerc - FP1: 1:05.924, P10; FP2: 1:05.298, P9

"It’s good to be back in the car after a long pause but on the other hand it wasn’t an easy day for us so it was difficult to enjoy it fully. All the cars are very close, which is exciting to see on the one hand, but on the other hand, we would like to be fighting a bit nearer the front. The balance of the car is not that bad, we need to catch up in terms of overall performance.

"The lack of pace is not down to any one thing in particular so we’ll try different ways for tomorrow and see if we can gain some performance. Qualifying will be good for the show, as there are quite a lot of teams all close together. We’ll be fighting very hard and it’s crucial we make the right choice tonight to come back with a stronger car tomorrow."

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SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JULY 03: Sebastian Vettel of Germany driving the (5) Scuderia Ferrari SF1000 on track during practice for the F1 Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on July 03, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

Racing Point

Racing Point were the talk of the town way back when in pre-season testing and looked to be the pick of the midfield. Fast forward a few months and the RP20 has lost none of its apparent pace, with many wondering if they can close the gap to the big three ahead and even challenge Ferrari. As if that wasn’t enough, Perez’s race pace was actually on a par with Verstappen in FP2, which could make this weekend a very interesting one for the team in pink…

Sergio Perez – FP1: 1:05.512, P5; FP2: 1:04.945, P3

“It's been an interesting day. Everything is really close out there, especially on such a short track. The car feels good and I’m happy. In the factory, the team has done a tremendous job and we have a car underneath us that is working well. There's still a lot of work to do – tonight and tomorrow morning – but we are in decent shape. The margins are extremely close, so it’s going to be really important to put together some really tidy laps in qualifying tomorrow.”

Lance Stroll - FP1: 1:06.074, P11; FP2: 1:05.135, P7

“It was very exciting to be driving again and it was a solid day for the team. We got a taste for the car in Barcelona during winter testing, but it’s good to see where we are relative to everybody else. We looked competitive and after so many months out of the car it was nice to get back in the groove. It’s definitely been one of the better Fridays I can remember for a long time – so that's a good sign. Today, it looked like we had the pace. So we'll see what tomorrow brings.”

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SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JULY 03: Sergio Perez of Mexico driving the (11) Racing Point RP20 Mercedes on track during practice for the F1 Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on July 03, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Mario Renzi - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Renault

Ricciardo had the better day of the Renault drivers, comfortably in the top 10 in both sessions. Ocon’s debut for his new team got off to a slightly ignominious start when a piece of his bargeboard flew off on track, but once fixed he was able to rack up the laps in FP2. Renault certainly seem to be in the fight at the top of the midfield, but with times so close and a short track tightening the field even more, the battle to make Q3 tomorrow will be intense.

Esteban Ocon - FP1: 1:06.270, P13; FP2: 1:05.415, P11

“It definitely felt good to be back and I’m very happy to have a decent day’s running. There are little things to improve here and there but that’s normal after a long time away from driving. It’s getting there, the pace is promising and looking at the team today we are in a good place. Our short runs were fairly quick, and the pace is there. I just need to pull it together when it counts tomorrow.”

Daniel Ricciardo - FP1: 1:05.860, P8; FP2: 1:04.972, P5

“Firstly, it’s really nice to get back into it. After Australia, I think we were all a bit nervous if we were going to be here, so it’s great to be out there again. The car felt good straight away and we carried some good momentum through the day. Our long run pace gives us something to work on, while the low fuel pace looked decent, so I’m pretty happy with that. Taking the timing board out of it, the car feels like it’s progressed, so it’s positive feelings and I’m looking forward to qualifying.”

Alan Permane, Sporting Director

“It was a very solid day from both our drivers and, of course, the team. We came here very well prepared after running a two-day test here a couple of weeks ago. We were straight into a rhythm this morning with the cars performing well and the drivers happy with the balance and grip. Our long run pace was also decent this afternoon and - with good information on all tyres – we can develop a decent race strategy. We now look forward to a competitive qualifying tomorrow.”

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SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JULY 03: Esteban Ocon of France driving the (31) Renault Sport Formula One Team RS20 comes in for a tyre change during practice for the F1 Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on July 03, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)

McLaren

McLaren got the season underway, sending a jubilant Sainz and Norris out early doors. Their joy to be back driving was infectious, and they made easy work of FP1, both finishing in the top 10. Second practice saw some bumps – literally – when Sainz damaged his front wing on the high kerbs but other than that, it was smooth sailing for the team.

Carlos Sainz - FP1: 1:05.431, P4; FP2: 1:05.352, P10

"It was a positive first Friday for the team. It felt great to be back in the MCL35. We had some challenges, more specifically a yellow kerb that damaged my front wing. This weekend will be a challenge, but the car is showing decent pace and it felt very similar to what it did in winter testing. That’s good news. We’re just starting to see the real order of the cars, so let’s see what happens tomorrow".

Lando Norris - FP1: 1:05.621, P6; FP2: 1:05.087, P6

“It’s so good to be back in the car, getting up to speed, getting used to driving a Formula 1 car again. The first few laps are a bit of a shock to the body, because there’s nothing like driving an F1 car, but it’s great to be back. We got through our run plan, we did a good number of laps and I’m pretty happy with the car. There’s always things to improve on from my side and with the car but on the whole it’s a good way to start, so I’m happy. It’s just good to be back and getting in shape again, I’m looking forward to getting back out tomorrow and trying to improve.”

Andrea Stella, Racing Director

“Starting the season after such a long delay required everyone to rapidly get up to speed. For the drivers there’s a need to get used to the pace of a Formula 1 car, both physically and mentally. They were quite colourful in describing the sensations, but they did it very quickly. From an engineering and operational point of view we had to do the same.

“There’s only seven corners at this circuit but there’s always loads of things happening. It's a track with aggressive kerbs and bumps, which always have an attritional effect, a challenge we’re dealing with at the moment. Performance-wise, I think the car confirmed the progress we saw in the winter – but we have to acknowledge that other teams have also made good progress. Obviously there are midfield teams who seem to have taken a significant step forward, which makes the competition even tighter. But, as ever, we focus on our own performance and I think we have good potential. There’s a few things we can optimise overnight and we can fight for Q3. We’re looking forward to qualifying tomorrow and the race on Sunday.”

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SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JULY 03: Carlos Sainz of Spain driving the (55) McLaren F1 Team MCL35 Renault on track during practice for the F1 Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on July 03, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images,)

Haas

Haas did not have the dream start to the season, with Grosjean benched early on with brake issues. The Frenchman made up for lost time in FP2, although it was not easy going then either as he struggled for balance, locking up more than once and spinning for good measure. Magnussen had a much quieter day, but the true pace of the VF-20 is an unknown quantity just yet.

Romain Grosjean - FP1: 1:46.361, P20; FP2: 1:05.908, P16

“It wasn’t an ideal start to the day, but it happens sometimes. The guys did a great job to enable us to get an install in at the end of the session just to check that the brakes were back to normal again. We then had a lot of work going on in FP2. We tried to make up for some of the time lost. I’ll tell you this though, coming out of the box and pressing the throttle, I did think to myself ‘wow this goes really fast’. It took me a little longer than I expected to get back to it and focusing on things like getting the braking point right and really just the overall sense of speed – Formula One is very special and unique in that sense. Things settled though and we did manage to run through the planned program. There’s obviously a bit more lap time to gain, the midfield is certainly looking quite tight.”

Kevin Magnussen - FP1: 1:05.907, P9; FP2: 1:05.678, P15

“It was fantastic to be back in the car again and we had a decent day. We’re still learning about the car and discovering little things about it. The rear grip is very good in the new car, but consistency is the key. The second session, it wasn’t as trouble-free in terms of some traffic and stuff, but overall though, I’d say it was still a good session – I’m still happy with the day. It’s been an interesting start and I can’t wait for more tomorrow.”

Guenther Steiner, Team Principal

“It’s good to be back, but it’s not long though before you get back to where you left off trying to do the best job possible. You find yourself back to dealing with issues and dealing with all the things that happen. FP1 wasn’t fantastic, Romain (Grosjean) didn’t really get out as we had a problem with a brake line which was leaking. We had to change the suspension for that, so he lost quite a bit of his running time. It was important to be running today as he hasn’t driven a Formula One car in four months. We got it fixed and he got back out this afternoon with some good running. Performance-wise, we’re not happy where we are at the moment. We’ve got things we need to work on, we know that, and we’ve got opportunities to do that. Everybody in the team will be working hard tonight to make things better for tomorrow. The best part of today was that we got back to racing.”

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SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JULY 03: Kevin Magnussen of Denmark driving the (20) Haas F1 Team VF-20 Ferrari on track during practice for the F1 Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on July 03, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Joe Klamar/Pool via Getty Images)

AlphaTauri

AlphaTauri had a mixed day, with the AT01 another car that looked slightly tricky to handle. Kvyat got the worst of it, spinning in both sessions although he managed to get going both times and kept well clear of the barriers. Barring a sideways moment in FP1, Gasly kept his car pointed in the right direction but couldn’t find enough pace to challenge for the top 10. Unless they were sandbagging, Q3 might be out of reach tomorrow.

Pierre Gasly - FP1: 1:06.404, P16; FP2: 1:06.016, P17

“I’m very happy to be back in the car after such a long break. It was an exciting day and we managed to do quite a few laps. In terms of performance, we knew it was going to be quite difficult, because I think we are still discovering the car and trying to understand what exactly we need from it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do a clean lap on the Options due to traffic, but Dany was ok, so we’ll have a lot of things to analyse after today and try to put everything together for tomorrow’s qualifying.”

Daniil Kvyat - FP1: 1:06.943, P19; FP2: 1:05.443, P12

“FP1 was a tricky session for us today. We were not that satisfied with the window the car was in, but I felt happier in FP2 as we were able to improve the car and make a step forward. We still have some work to do overnight but I’m positive that we will find what we need to improve the car still further for tomorrow.”

Guillaume Dezoteux, Head of Vehicle Performance

“Today we had a difficult first free practice, during which we had a few operational issues and we also struggled with finding a good car balance. The weather didn’t help either, with a damp track at the start. After a number of set up adjustments in between the sessions, we significantly improved the car in the afternoon and the drivers were happier. But we are still lacking some front-end grip in the third sector, which is very demanding on the front tyres. We need to analyse all the data and understand where we are in terms of competitiveness. The midfield looks tight again, so we have to optimise every aspect of the car to be able to fight for the top places. Finally, it was fantastic to be back racing and I must say that the constraints added by all the health and safety measures have not been too distracting and we were able to operate almost normally.”

Toyoharu Tanabe, Honda F1 Technical Director

“Finally, after such a long break, we are glad to see the cars running on track again for the Austrian Grand Prix weekend. There are many restrictions in the paddock and the circuit in terms of what we can do and where we can go. In the case of Honda, it is slightly inconvenient that our members from our two different teams cannot have any contact. But it’s a minor issue and does not affect us getting on with our main job of ensuring our cars run well. It’s strange having no fans and we miss them. Today, we had no PU issues with our four cars and now we will continue optimising our PU settings in preparation for qualifying and the race.”

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SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JULY 03: Scuderia AlphaTauri team members prepare for a pit stop for during practice for the F1 Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on July 03, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)

Alfa Romeo

Raikkonen used all his experience to avoid beaching his car in the gravel at Turn 6 when he ran wide in second practice, but other than that lapped solidly. Giovinazzi was the pick of the two Alfa drivers, the Italian keeping his head down and completing a good chunk of laps to give his team some much needed data. But all in all, Alfa do seem to have dropped off the pace of their midfield rivals and could be scrapping to make it into Q2 tomorrow.

Kimi Raikkonen - FP1: 1:06.365, P15; FP2: 1:06.278, P19

“Getting back in the car didn’t feel too strange, it was a fairly normal Friday. We were trying things in the car, figuring out what works well and what doesn’t to develop the best setup for the rest of the weekend. In the end it wasn’t the easiest day, I had a little off but it didn’t cost me much time; and we have something to work with for tomorrow. It’s way too early to say where we stand today, we will need to wait until the end of qualifying to have a clearer picture.”

Antonio Giovinazzi - FP1: 1:06.360, P14; FP2: 1:05.608, P14

“It was really nice to be back in the car after this long break. I spent a lot of time in the simulator, but nothing matches the feeling of being in the real car. The day was quite positive and we managed to do all the tests we wanted today; of course, we are still missing something compared to the top ten but we will work hard tonight to bridge that gap. As always, it will be a matter of putting everything together, especially in qualifying. We are here to give our best, to try to get a good result and score points.”

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SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JULY 03: Kimi Raikkonen of Finland driving the (7) Alfa Romeo Racing C39 Ferrari on track during practice for the F1 Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on July 03, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Mario Renzi - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Williams

Latifi finally got his rookie season up and running, and had a solid debut in FP1. He found things slightly trickier in second practice, running wide and spinning but at least kept his car in one piece. Meanwhile, Russell showed decent maturity for a man in just his second season, running well and getting a good number of laps under his belt. His exploits in the virtual races have clearly paid off.

George Russell – FP1: 1:06.495, P17; FP2: 1:06.125, P18

"It was fun to get back behind the wheel and my body took a bit of time to get used to the g-force again. It was a productive and encouraging day; our low fuel pace isn’t as good as our high fuel pace, where we seem relatively competitive. By the end of the day, I was back in the groove and happy in the car. We are going in the right direction, and that was our main focus."

Nicholas Latifi - FP1: 1:06.906, P18; FP2: 1:07.124, P20

"Overall, it was a mixed day, but I felt comfortable getting up to speed in the car. FP1 was a pretty positive session and we got through a few test items even with limited running due to the rain. FP2 was a bit more of a difficult session as we decided to try some new things to learn and I made some mistakes, but that is what practice is for. I really enjoyed being back in the car. It was the first time I have driven an FP2 session, so I can now say that I am officially a Formula One driver."

Dave Robson, Senior Race Engineer

"It has been great to run the cars again and to finally begin the 2020 season, especially in the imposing surroundings of the Red Bull Ring. The ‘closed’ nature of the event undoubtedly makes for a different working environment but, so far, our tentative steps back towards racing have gone very well. We are grateful to have the opportunity to start the season here in Austria and we look forward to hopefully welcoming back the crowds later in the year.

"The overnight rain compromised the FP1 run plan a little but nonetheless we were able to continue the work that we began several months ago in Barcelona. Although the whole of Formula One has been in shutdown for much of the spring period, we were still able to refine some key elements of the FW43 ahead of this event.

"With good weather throughout FP2 we were able to test some set-up options that we expect to use later in the weekend. Both cars ran their intended programmes and the data gathered looks positive. As usual, we will take the time this evening to go through the details before deciding on a final specification for qualifying.

"Having spent so long away from the track, it is easy to forget how demanding it is to drive and operate these cars and both drivers and car crews did an excellent job today. Of course, it is also Nicholas’s first full race weekend in Formula One and he did a great job throughout, building on his experience from Barcelona and the simulator. George too was impressive today and he was able to apply his experience and professionalism to lead the rest of the team through our first day back at the track.

"Tomorrow the pressure will ratchet up a notch or two, but we are ready to face that challenge and get the best out of the car whatever the conditions. Whilst we will be focussed primarily on this weekend, we will not lose sight of the fact that we have a rare opportunity to test the cars and drivers over two consecutive weekends."

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SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JULY 03: Nicholas Latifi of Canada driving the (6) Williams Racing FW43 Mercedes on track during practice for the F1 Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on July 03, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Pirelli

Mario Isola, Head of F1 and Car Racing

"As expected, there was a relatively small gap in terms of performance between the three compounds at the Red Bull Ring, with a short lap that's covered in just over a minute. Despite a very long time since the drivers were last on track, the fastest times in both free practice sessions today were slightly faster than their equivalents last year, confirming the development of the cars with exactly the same tyres as 2019. There was plenty of track evolution following some overnight rain, which led to the intermediate tyres being run briefly in FP1. With more teams challenging for the top 10, it's more likely that the soft will be needed to guarantee a chance of progressing to Q3, which is probably why we saw a lot of drivers concentrating on long runs with the soft tyre as well as the medium today. At such a finely-balanced circuit such as the Red Bull Ring, the smallest detail will count even more than usual."

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