Hamilton taking Austria lead with 'a pinch of salt' as Verstappen reveals damage

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Lewis Hamilton wasn't getting carried away with Mercedes' performance during Friday practice at the Austrian Grand Prix.

After an almost four-month delay to the new season, the world champion made coming back look easy as he topped the timesheet in both sessions at the Red Bull Ring.

"Yea, it’s great to be back, it’s been a long time coming so it feels great to feel the new car against in February," he told Will Buxton post-session.

"I don’t remember what it felt like in Barcelona because it was so long ago!

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"But what’s positive is the car was feeling good today and definitely feels like, in general, compared to last year we have continued to improve the car so that’s a massive positive."

While he held a healthy six tenths lead over Sergio Perez in third for Racing Point, as Red Bull and Ferrari slipped into the midfield pack, Hamilton doubts that will hold looking ahead to qualifying.

"It’s difficult to say, it did look good out there but we never take too much from practice," he claimed.

"Some other teams might down on the power mode or use more fuel so we’ll take it with a pinch of salt, try to improve the car tonight and come back tomorrow!"

A big surprise was the lack of pace Red Bull had around their home circuit in Spielberg, with Max Verstappen showing the rust you'd expect from a driver who hasn't driven since February.

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But though he ended the day only eighth fastest, nine-tenths off the pace, the Dutchman revealed the cause of his poor qualifying run.

“Overall it was a positive day, the car was handling well and I’m pleased with the number of laps we did which is really important after such a long break," he commented.

“The lap times don’t really say anything because I broke my front wing on the push lap, so we had to fit a different wing.

“I think we were a little too aggressive for that and I had a spin and a little off, but nothing major.

“The kerbs are what they are here and it’s the same for everyone, the front wing doesn’t really like the yellow kerbs so we do have to be careful," Verstappen added.

“We are I think confident and there are always things we can do better but overall it was a good day and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”