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Formula One

FP2: Leclerc fastest as Vettel spins and Bottas and Verstappen crash heavily

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Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc set the pace in a Free Practice 2 session at the Red Bull Ring that was heavily disrupted by crashes for the previous two previous Austrian Grand Prix winners, Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas.

Having been in superb, error-free form so far this year, 2018 Austrian Grand Prix victor Verstappen lost the back end of his Red Bull RB15 going through the final Turn 10, rotating the car before sliding backwards and crashing heavily into the barriers to bring out the red flags.

Once the session was restarted at around the 45-minute mark, we were then treated to just a few minutes more action before 2017 winner Bottas lost the rear of his Mercedes W10 at Turn 6, spearing off through the gravel and into the barriers and damaging the front of his car heavily – although both he and Verstappen thankfully walked away from their respective incidents.

The drama wasn’t over, however, with Sebastian Vettel then losing the rear end of his Ferrari SF90 just after the second restart and slewing off at Turn 10 near to where Verstappen had gone off. Fortunately for the German, however, the only damage he suffered was a set of severely flat-spotted tyres.

The net effect of the above shunt-fest was an inconclusive FP2 session, with the series of crashes taking place around the time when the drivers tend to go for their qualifying simulation runs.

Leclerc’s leading time was therefore slower than Lewis Hamilton managed in FP1, while Bottas still managed to end up P2, 0.331s adrift and ahead of the Red Bull of Pierre Gasly – who earlier in the session had drifted off track at Turn 4 and been forced to take the escape road to get back on track – and Lewis Hamilton in P4.

Fifth and impressive once again was the McLaren of Carlos Sainz – although the Spaniard, who’ll start Sunday’s race at the back of the grid after taking new power unit elements, did have a wayward off-track moment at Turn 6 at the end of the session – while Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen in P6 and P7 – and ahead of the Ferrari of Vettel in P8 – hinted at some decent pace in their Haas and Alfa Romeo cars. Verstappen and the second McLaren of Lando Norris rounded out the top 10.

So, the picture of how the field will shape up in qualifying tomorrow is fuzzy at best, while the mechanics at Red Bull and Mercedes have got a long night ahead of them to get their drivers’ cars back into shape. The perfect conditions, then, for what looks set to be a very exciting Saturday and Sunday.

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