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Hamilton edges Verstappen in opening Austria F1 practice

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Lewis Hamilton made strong start to the Austrian Grand Prix weekend by topping the opening Formula 1 practice session at the Red Bull Ring for Mercedes, edging out Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

Hamilton bounced back from his disappointing fifth-place finish in Baku two weeks ago by charging to the head of the field in FP1, turning in a fastest lap time of 1:05.975 to finish almost two-tenths clear of the pack.

Mercedes had been due to score a one-two finish in FP1 as Valtteri Bottas sat second heading into the final minutes, only for Verstappen to improve late on and rise to second place, 0.190 seconds off Hamilton’s time.

Verstappen looked poised to improve his time on his final lap of the session before a spin at Turn 3, leaving him to settle for P2 ahead of Bottas, who also turned his car around earlier in the session.

Sebastian Vettel took fourth place for Ferrari – also having survived an early spin – while Baku race winner Daniel Ricciardo wound up fifth in the second Red Bull, six-tenths of a second behind Hamilton at the top, just ahead of Kimi Raikkonen.

Honda’s ‘Spec 3’ power unit gave McLaren an immediate boost in FP1 as both Stoffel Vandoorne and Fernando Alonso finished in the top 10, taking P7 and P9 respectively. Daniil Kvyat split the pair in P8 for Toro Rosso, while Force India’s Esteban Ocon completed the top 10.

Practice in Austria continues with FP2 live on the NBC Sports app at 8am ET on Friday.

F1 2017 driver review: Romain Grosjean

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Romain Grosjean

Team: Haas
Car No.: 8
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P6 (Austria)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 28
Championship Position: 13th

After leading Haas’ charge through its debut Formula 1 season in 2016, Romain Grosjean once again stepped up as team leader for the American team through its sophomore campaign despite scoring one point fewer.

Haas did not expect any major step in performance heading into 2017, having dealt with building all-new cars for two different sets of regulations, but the team was able to match its season one points total by the halfway mark this time around.

The big boost was the addition of a second points scoring driver – Kevin Magnussen – to partner Grosjean. Grosjean looked increasingly comfortable at Haas even if the car often presented problems, particularly under braking.

Radio rants were frequent, with Grosjean unable to drive around the issues as Magnussen did. But he was nevertheless able to finish the year as Haas’ top scorer, with his highlight moment being a perfect run to sixth in Austria.

Greater consistency was evident from both Grosjean and Haas through 2017, yet there were still swings in form that need to be ironed out in the future. The team was unable to capitalize on Renault and Toro Rosso’s late season difficulties that could have seen it jump to sixth in the constructors’ championship.

Grosjean once again proved himself to be a very competent and talented racer through 2017, but needs a little more panache – perhaps down to the car more than anything – if he is to put himself in the frame for a top-line drive in the future.

Haas continues to offer a good platform, though, and its third season should be its best yet thanks to the stability in the regulations. It will be a real chance for Grosjean to show what he can do.

Season High: A perfect run to sixth in Austria, leading the midfield cars.

Season Low: Crashing early with Ocon in Brazil, hurting Haas’ constructors’ hopes.