Lewis Hamilton fastest in Austrian practice

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Lewis Hamilton led the way in Friday practice for the Austrian Grand Prix, clocking the fastest time in both sessions as he sets out to close the gap on title rival Sebastian Vettel.

The Mercedes driver was quickest in the morning session at the Red Bull Ring before beating Vettel to top spot later in the day as well.

Vettel’s Ferrari was down in fourth after first practice as he looks to build on the 14-point lead he holds over Hamilton, with the pair back on track after addressing their recent issues in a press conference on Thursday.

There had been calls for Vettel to be hit with penalties for this race after he drove his car into Hamilton’s at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in protest to what he considered a dangerous braking manoeuvre.

Instead he was free to race after the FIA, motorsport’s governing body, deemed he required no further punishment for the incident having been hit with a 10-second stop-and-go penalty during the race in Baku.

The pair insisted the flashpoint was now in the past and said they were fully focused on leaving Spielberg on the front foot ahead of the British Grand Prix.

It would be Hamilton who drew first blood as he led for most of the 90-minute session, with Max Verstappen second for Red Bull at their home circuit.

The second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas was third, with Vettel almost half a second down on Hamilton.

Vettel got closer in free practice two, but he still could not match the man closest to him in the drivers’ championship.

Hamilton lost a little running time due to a spark plug change and complained during his long-run stint towards the end of the session that he felt a little uncomfortable, but it was no major issue as he once again set the pace.

Bottas, who spun in both sessions, was third with Verstappen up in fourth despite spending time in the garage at the start.

His team-mate, and Baku race-winner, Daniel Ricciardo was fifth with Kimi Raikkonen sixth and Kevin Magnussen’s Haas next in line.

The McLaren of Fernando Alonso, running an upgraded engine here, Nico Hulkenberg’s Renault and Romain Grosjean in the second Haas completed the top 10.

Esteban Ocon was 11th for Force India with Stoffel Vandoorne’s McLaren 12th and Daniil Kvyat 13th for Toro Rosso.

Williams were down in 14th and 16th as Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll sandwiched the Toro Rosso of Carlos Sainz.

Sergio Perez could only clock the 17th-fastest time for Force India as Jolyon Palmer, reportedly driving for his place at Renault, was 18th ahead of the Sauber pair of Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson.

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