Motorsport

Published: Friday June 20, 2014 MYT 10:43:35 PM
Updated: Friday June 20, 2014 MYT 10:43:35 PM

Hamilton fastest in Austrian GP practice

SPIELBERG Austria (Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton was comfortably quicker than championship leading Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg in free practice on Friday as Formula One returned to Austria for the first time in 11 years.

The Briton, who is 22 points behind the German after seven races, lapped the Red Bull Ring with a fastest time of one minute 09.542 seconds on super-soft tyres in an afternoon session that stayed dry despite dark clouds overhead.

Rosberg had been quickest on a rain-affected morning with a best effort of 1:11.295, with Hamilton 0.140 behind, but was a considerable 0.377 slower than the 2008 world champion in the second practice.

Hamilton has won four races to Rosberg's two so far this season, but has also suffered two costly retirements through no fault of his own.

Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, one of just four current drivers to have raced previously at what was formerly the A1 Ring, finished third in both sessions.

Mercedes-powered Williams again looked strong, with Brazilian Felipe Massa fourth in the morning and Finnish team mate Valtteri Bottas filling that position in the afternoon.

Red Bull's four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel had a spectacular spin in the morning, but was sixth fastest after lunch, as several drivers ran wide at the fast and scenic circuit in the southern Styrian mountains.

The German, whose mechanics changed the car's floor after his high-speed spin at the exit to the last corner, was lucky not to clout the barrier at the Red Bull-owned track.

Australian team mate Daniel Ricciardo, winner of the previous race in Canada, was 13th and eighth fastest respectively amid intermittent rain and after also having his car's floor changed.

Sunday's race will be the first at the renovated track, one of the shortest on the calendar, since 2003.

(Writing by Alan Baldwin, editing by Sudipto Ganguly/Pritha Sarkar)

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