Hamilton tops practice session as F1 gets back on track - GulfToday

Hamilton tops practice session as F1 gets back on track


Lewis Hamilton steers his car during the second practice session in Spielberg, Austria. AFP

Lewis Hamilton began his quest for a record-equalling seventh world title by topping the times on Friday as Formula One roared back with a full day’s practice for the belated season-opening Austrian Grand Prix.

Three months after the cancelled traditional curtain-raiser in Australia and six months on from the last race, it was business as usual from the dominant ‘black arrows’ Mercedes men with Valtteri Bottas next fastest as the sport re-started after its longest off-season.

Hamilton, in commanding form in both the morning and afternoon sessions, was quickest in one minute and 4.304 seconds to lead Bottas by 0.197 seconds and third-placed Sergio Perez, in Racing Point’s pink Mercedes, by 0.657.

Sebastian Vettel, in his last season with Ferrari, was fourth for the Italian outfit ahead of McLaren-bound Daniel Ricciardo of Renault and Lando Norris of McLaren.

Lance Stroll, in the second Racing Point car, modelled on the hugely-successful 2019 title-winning Mercedes, was seventh ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc in the second Ferrari and his future team-mate Carlos Sainz of McLaren.

The long-awaited track action brought an end to Formula One’s longest break following the lifting of lockdown restrictions in Europe caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Hamilton, who has been an outspoken supporter of the campaign for equality and diversity since the death of American George Floyd last month, revealed a statement ‘Black Lives Matter’ helmet before climbing into his Mercedes.

His Mercedes W11 car was also running in revised new black livery, instead of the team’s traditional silver, with a message to ‘End Racism’ on the halo.

“For a long time, we’ve been planning for the livery change for the car, for the (driver) suit change and I have also designed my helmet in black,” said Hamilton, speaking on a video released on social media.

“Normally, my helmet is white, my suit is white and obviously the car is in silver. This is why - it’s the whole reason that the helmet has changed its colour and the suit and the car.

“It’s supporting equality, above all, and just really continuing to solidify that important message as we currently have ‘the mic’ and people are starting to listen. So, it’s an opportunity to push that message and really hold people accountable.

“It’s not good enough, even if someone says to you ‘we’ve been doing something’ or ‘we’ve been trying’. They need to try harder because it is still a big issue that the world is fighting 60 years later, after Martin Luther King was fighting for it and gave his life.”

Meanwhile, Vettel has revealed there was no offer on the table with respect to a new Ferrari deal but accepted he was left a bit surprised when he was made aware about the team’s decision.

Vettel has so far won 14 races for Ferrari but failed to add to the four titles he won with Red Bull between 2010 and 2013. It was earlier announced by both Vettel and Ferrari that their association with come to an end after the current campaign.

“There was no sticking point,” Vettel was quoted as saying by Formula1.com. “It was obviously a surprise to me when I got the call from Mattia (Binotto, Ferrari Team Principal) when he told me that there was no further intention for the team to continue.

“We never got into any discussions – there was never an offer on the table and therefore there was no sticking point,” he added.

Vettel, who is currently gearing up for the much-anticipated Austrian GP, also revealed he hasn’t held discussions with other teams over a possible move next season.

“At the moment I’m not really having any. Looking forward, obviously I want to make sure I make the right decision for myself and my future. I think I have a very competitive nature, I have achieved a lot in the sport,” Vettel said.

“I’m motivated and willing to achieve more. To do so I need the right package and the right people around me, so that’s what I’m looking out for at the moment.”

Agence France-Presse

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