Verstappen wins in Austria as Vettel grabs lead in standings

Image ANDREJ ISAKOVIC  AFP

Sebastian Vettel set the fastest time of the second practice session for the British Grand Prix as Max Verstappen crashed out early on.

France's Romain Grosjean scored his first points of the season with a bang, finishing a lapped fourth for the US-owned Haas team, who also had Denmark's Kevin Magnussen taking the chequered flag in fifth.

Two-time champion Fernando Alonso came home eighth for McLaren ahead of Monegasque rising star Charles Leclerc and his Ferrari-powered Sauber team-mate Marcus Ericsson.

In Austria, Vettel because of the fine started only sixth, but a double gathering of racers "the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas helped the German to make the podium and take Hamilton the lead in the championship". "It's a real privilege for me and I was just watching some of the replays of a year ago and if you look at the end when it shows you all of the positions and obviously to see the Union Jack up there is always a great feeling". Raikkonen said: "I had to back off at turn one because the cars were squeezed together".

"No, definitely not", he said, adding that this year's was no better: "We know we have less downforce this year than last year".

Lewis Hamilton says it's impossible to say how the F1 season will pan out; especially in a season where both Mercedes and Ferrari have at times appeared dominant while other times have been way off the pace.

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Raikkonen was next to slide off going around a turn, though the Finn was fortunate to avoid major damage and was able to return with grass-covered tires. The Spaniard finished 2.835 seconds slower than Hamilton. Nico Hulkenberg ("Reno") - 34 10. "My gearbox is gone", he told the team.

Verstappen hit the front after Mercedes kept Hamilton out on track during a virtual safety auto period that followed Bottas's retirement, with the other contenders pitting for fresh tyres.

McLaren ended a three-year partnership with Honda in 2017 but has also under-performed with the same Renault engines that have taken Red Bull to three victories in nine races. "I've got no time left in the tyres", said Hamilton, aware that a straightforward race win was in peril. Chief strategist James Vowles acknowledged the blunder, telling Hamilton that it was his mistake.

When Hamilton did pit, he came back out in fourth place. At the front, Verstappen led his Red Bull team-mate Ricciardo by 4.9 seconds with Raikkonen third, a second down, and Hamilton a further six-tenths adrift. "I'm going to keep it free because I'm going to be in Russian Federation that day, supporting them".

"They are definitely on a high at the minute and it's going to need to continue", Hamilton said during Thursday's press conference at the Silverstone circuit. On lap 53, he pitted again for super-softs, dropping a place to fifth behind Ricciardo, who nearly immediately slowed and stopped.

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