Bottas beats the field in final Austrian GP practice

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Valtteri Bottas has finished fastest in the final practice session ahead of qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix, beating Lewis Hamilton into second place with his final lap.

The Finn posted a late time on the option tire to edge out Hamilton and Williams teammate Felipe Massa, whilst Nico Rosberg was forced to settle for fifth place behind Toro Rosso rookie Daniil Kvyat.

FP3 gave the drivers one final chance to get to grips with the Red Bull Ring circuit ahead of qualifying, and the majority of them headed out early in the one hour session in order to make the most of the running time. The early benchmark was set by McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen, and the Dane remained at the top of the timesheets to begin with with a good lap of 1:10.998. His teammate, Jenson Button, was less fortunate, suffering a problem with his brakes that ended his session early.

Felipe Massa was the first driver to displace Magnussen at the top of the timesheets, and his example was soon followed by Valtteri Bottas and Daniil Kvyat at the front of the field. Bottas soon got the upper hand on his teammate, finishing three-hundredths of a second faster than his teammate after the first set of runs.

Fernando Alonso bided his time before heading out, and slotted into third place with his first time. Mercedes, however, opted to take it easy to begin with, as neither Hamilton nor Rosberg challenged the drivers at the head of the standings at first. With 23 minutes remaining, though, the German driver ascended to P1 by a full three-tenths of a second.

For the final part of the session, the drivers made the switch to the super-soft tire compound in order to perform a simulation qualifying run ahead of this afternoon’s pole position shoot-out. Alonso was one of the first to make the switch, and moved up into first place as a result, with Rosberg remaining in second place with his initial effort on the red-ringed tires. Hamilton and Massa both had enjoyed spates of time at the top of the timesheets, but it was Bottas who stole the show with his final lap time to finish just 0.050 seconds ahead of the Briton.

Will Williams’ good form continue in qualifying? Find out by watching the session live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 8am ET today.

Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

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With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.