2014 Austrian GP Practice Two: Lewis Hamilton turns the tables on Nico Rosberg
Hamilton pulls nearly four tenths clear of team-mate in the afternoon; Fernando Alonso next up but chasing pack nearly a second back; Low-key day for Red Bull at start of World Champions' home race
By James Galloway. Last Updated: 20/06/14 3:25pm
Lewis Hamilton responded to championship leader Nico Rosberg's early show of speed in Austria to impressively head the field in Practice Two as the title-duelling pair moved Mercedes a long way clear on the timesheet.
In terms of topping Friday practice sessions on the first day of action after F1's decade-long absence from the new-look Red Bull Ring, it proved to be a score draw for Hamilton and Rosberg on Friday, yet it was the former's superior speed in the quicker afternoon session during the qualifying-style runs on the supersoft tyre which caught the eye.
Although evenly matched on the more durable soft rubber in the session's early runs, Hamilton's quickest lap of 1:09.542 on the weekend's 'option' compound proved to be 0.377 seconds quicker than Rosberg could manage. Indeed, the German initially made errors on his first two flying laps on the tyre before eventually clocking his personal best effort.
Having slipped 22 points adrift of his team-mate after his second retirement of the season in Canada, Hamilton is targeting a return to winning ways on Sunday and his P2 pace suggests a closely-fought battle is again in store at the front of the field.
"[The car felt] not bad considering I've never driven here before," Hamilton, who reported a loss of power late in the session, told Sky Sports F1. "Already in the first session with the laps that I did I was feeling really comfortable and always finding time the more and more laps I do.
"To be as quick as I was considering others around me have driven this track is a really good feeling."
While Mercedes' winning run may have ended two weeks ago, Friday's picture in Austria starkly suggested the W05's hegemony will be restored in full this weekend after the lead Silver Arrows outpaced the team's would-be rivals by a best part of a second.
Surprisingly, given Ferrari usually slip down the order as the pace increases on the opening day of running, Fernando Alonso took third in the F14 T ahead of Williams pair Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa. The circuit's series of straights look likely to favour the Grove team's Mercedes power plant in particular.
Sebastian Vettel took sixth for Red Bull at the team's home race but the gap to Mercedes was 1.2 seconds, his Canadian GP-winning team-mate Daniel Ricciardo a tenth further back behind McLaren's Jenson Button in eighth.
However, the Australian, who has displayed better tyre management than the World Champion so far this season, appeared to enjoy more competitive longer runs.
Kevin Magnussen in the second McLaren and Toro Rosso rookie Daniil Kvyat rounded out the top ten with Force India again appearing to be struggling for single-lap speed.
This weekend's Austrian GP is live only on Sky Sports F1. Race Day coverage begins with the Track Parade at 11.30am on Sunday