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Nico Rosberg fastest on first day of Austrian GP - record lap times in prospect

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Nico Rosberg fastest on first day of Austrian GP - record lap times in prospect
Jul 1, 2016, 2:29 PM

Nico Rosberg set a blistering pace on the first day of the Austrian Grand Prix with a time in the dry morning session that was almost a second insi...

Nico Rosberg set a blistering pace on the first day of the Austrian Grand Prix with a time in the dry morning session that was almost a second inside the 2015 pole position time and faster than Michael Schumacher's 13 year old lap record.

A sudden heavy rain shower early in the afternoon session prevented much meaningful running until the final half hour, but the lap times didn't fall below the morning session for the front runners.

Modifications to the track and resurfacing as well as advances in the chassis and power units and the provision of the Ultra Soft tyres has meant that the lap times were almost three seconds faster than FP1 in 2015. Rosberg did a 1m 07.373s lap on the fourth lap of a seven lap run.

The expectation is that the pole time will be in the high 1m 04s or low 1m 05s range, provided it stays dry on Saturday afternoon.

Rosberg's Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton did not set a comparable time as his fast lap on ultra soft tyres was thwarted by a Virtual Safety Car caused by Max Verstappen getting stranded in a gravel trap. Hamilton had set the fastest first sector time before the VSC was deployed. Verstappen had a messy FP1 session, damaging his front wing in an incident early in the session.

Rosberg managed a 1m 07.967s lap time early in the afternoon. But after a warm and sunny morning practice session, the afternoon session was blighted by heavy rain early on, which affected the final sector in particular. That said, the track dried quite quickly in the subsequent sunshine.

The German championship leader, who turned 31 this week, is seeking his third Austrian GP victory this weekend, but has never started this race from pole position. He has already won five races this season and Austria is clearly one of his favourite tracks.

Nico Rosberg

Teams had forecast the weather problem and managed to do a significant amount of laps in the morning session. There was a wide variety of different approaches; Rosberg did 37 laps, trying the supersoft and ultra soft tyres. He did 21 laps in total on a set of Ultrasofts, while Daniel Ricciardo did 35 laps using just soft and supersoft tyres. Nico Hulkenberg did 42 laps in the Force India on soft tyres only.

Teams will have limited data on which to base their race strategy planning. Traditionally Austria is a one stop race, but with three tyre choices available this year, it's all about working out the fastest way to do the race, which may not necessarily be a long stint on the soft tyres. Ferrari and Mercedes have done hardly any running on soft, indicating that they favour a strategy based on supersoft and ultrasoft tyres.

Dry tyres went on with just 20 minutes to go in FP2 and Ferrari split strategies with Vettel on the UltraSoft and Raikkonen on the supersoft.

Vettel went off the track into the gravel at Turn 2 in the closing stages of FP2 "I don't know what happened there," said the German. "I spun when I hit the brakes."

Austrian GP 2016

More rain is threatened for the Saturday sessions.

The drivers were unhappy about the new kerbs, which have been introduced to control track limits but which damaged Max Verstappen's suspension.

Max Verstappen

Ferrari team leader Sebastian Vettel had to change a gearbox going into the weekend and will thus take a five place grid penalty from wherever he qualifies on Saturday.

AUSTRIAN GRAND PRIX, Free Practice - Fastest Laps of the Day - FP 1 * and FP2 **

1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m07.373s *

2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m07.730s *

3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m08.022s *

4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m08.222s *

5 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1m08.528s *

6 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1m 08.580s **

7 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1m08.713s**

8 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1m08.761s **

9 Felipe Massa Williams 1m08.824s *

10 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1m08.941s **

11 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1m08.990s *

12 Jenson Button McLaren 1m08.944s **

13 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1m09.075s **

14 Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari 1m09.078s *

15 Sergio Perez Force India 1m09.226s **

16 Kevin Magnussen Renault 1m09.525s **

16 Pascal Wehrlein Manor/Mercedes 1m09.775s *

17 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1m09.851s *

18 Marcus Ericsson Sauber/Ferrari 1m09.929s *

19 Esteban Gutierrez Haas/Ferrari 1m10.110s *

20 Felipe Nasr Sauber/Ferrari 1m10.314s *

21 Rio Haryanto Manor/Mercedes 1m10.493s **
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