Lewis Hamilton has broken the Red Bull Ring’s unofficial lap record in the very first practice session for the Austrian Formula 1 Grand Prix.

The Englishman finished a couple of tenths quicker in his Mercedes than Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen, who threw away his chance of claiming top spot on the timesheets by spinning.

Ominously for the rest of the field, Hamilton’s best time of the 90-minute session was posted on Pirelli’s Soft compound tyre, the hardest of the three compounds on offer at the Red Bull Ring.

His 1:05.975 effort was two-tenths faster than the time he posted in the second part of qualifying at last year’s event, suggesting that the frontrunners threaten the one-minute barrier in tomorrow’s battle for pole position.

Underscoring this was how little grip was available for the 4.3-kilometre circuit’s first proper hit-out of the weekend. Almost the entire field had at least one trip off-track, while a number of drivers had rather more dramatic incidents during the session.

Ferrari duo Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen both managed to loop their cars into high-speed spins when the rear end stepped out under braking for Turn 1, with each driver destroying a set of Super Soft tyres in the process. Despite their missteps, Vettel finished fourth-fastest, with Räikkönen two spots behind.

Max Verstappen had a wild off-track moment half an hour into the session when he slid off-track at Turn 6. He carried enough speed to traverse the gravel trap and slap the outside wall of the left-hander, causing light damage to his right-rear wheel that interrupted his track programme.

The Dutch youngster was able to return to the track late in the session and posted a succession of lap times that were good enough to vault him to second-fastest. In the final minute, he posted the fastest first sector time before locking up and spinning at Turn 3.

Third-fastest was Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas, who also had a spin during the session.

Sandwiched between the Ferraris was the second Red Bull car of Daniel Ricciardo, who indicated he needs to improve his one-lap pace to his teammate having been unable to outqualify Verstappen since April’s Russian Grand Prix.

Fitted with Honda’s new ‘Spec 3′ power unit, both McLarens ran quickly in the session, with Stoffel Vandoorne seventh-fastest and Fernando Alonso two spots behind. Both drivers’ fastest laps were posted on the extra-grippy Ultra Soft compound, however.

The pair sandwiched Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat in eighth, while Force India’s Esteban Ocon rounded out the top-ten.

Ocon’s regular teammate Sergio Pérez – who has been openly critical of the Frenchman to the press after their collision at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix – was missing in action in the session. He Mexican was replaced by his compatriot and the team’s reserve driver Alfonso Celis Jr, who lapped 1.7 seconds slower than Ocon in a limited-mileage programme.

Fellow reserve driver Sergey Sirotkin was also in action in Renault’s RS17, replacing Nico Hülkenberg for the FP1 session. The Russian lapped 0.9 seconds off the pace of regular driver Jolyon Palmer.

Friday’s second practice session gets underway at 14:00 local time (GMT +2).

Driver Team / Entry Time Tyre Laps
1. Lewis Hamilton uk Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W08 1:05.975 Pirelli Soft 38
2. Max Verstappen nl Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB13 1:06.165 Pirelli Super Soft 23
3. Valtteri Bottas fi Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W08 1:06.345 Pirelli Super Soft 35
4. Sebastian Vettel de Scuderia Ferrari SF70H 1:06.424 Pirelli Super Soft 28
5. Daniel Ricciardo au Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB13 1:06.620 Pirelli Super Soft 32
6. Kimi Räikkönen fi Scuderia Ferrari SF70H 1:06.848 Pirelli Super Soft 24
7. Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren-Honda MCL32 1:07.283 Pirelli Ultra Soft 31
8. Daniil Kvyat ru Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR12 1:07.437 Pirelli Super Soft 31
9. Fernando Alonso es McLaren-Honda MCL32 1:07.510 Pirelli Ultra Soft 28
10. Esteban Ocon fr Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM10 1:07.511 Pirelli Ultra Soft 39
11. Felipe Massa br Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW40 1:07.550 Pirelli Super Soft 29
12. Kevin Magnussen dk Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-17 1:07.594 Pirelli Super Soft 30
13. Carlos Sainz Jr es Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR12 1:07.633 Pirelli Super Soft 32
14. Jolyon Palmer Renault Sport F1 Team RS17 1:07.649 Pirelli Super Soft 31
15. Lance Stroll ca Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW40 1:08.041 Pirelli Super Soft 35
16. Romain Grosjean fr Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-17 1:08.074 Pirelli Super Soft 20
17. Sergio Sirotkin ru Renault Sport F1 Team RS17 1:08.586 Pirelli Super Soft 27
18. Alfonso Celis Jr Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM10 1:09.280 Pirelli Ultra Soft 15
19. Pascal Wehrlein de Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C36 1:09.323 Pirelli Super Soft 29
20. Marcus Ericsson se Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C36 1:10.853 Pirelli Soft 12

Image via Channel 4 F1

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.