Sebastian Vettel says Mercedes are favourites in Austria after Friday practice

Sebastian Vettel says Mercedes are favourites in Austria after Friday practice

Sebastian Vettel says Mercedes are favourites in Austria after Friday practice

Lewis Hamilton's hopes of closing the gap on his championship rival Sebastian Vettel in this weekend's Austrian Grand Prix have taken a blow.

Hamilton now trails Vettel by 14 points in the title race approaching the halfway stage of the season. The Mercedes driver's fastest lap was posted on the soft compound, despite an earlier lap on the ultrasoft, and left him 0.190s clear of Max Verstappen in the Red Bull.

A tight fight between Vettel's Ferrari team and three-time champion Hamilton's Mercedes outfit is in prospect in the Styrian Alps in the 30th running of the Austrian event.

Hamilton had been in serene form around the Red Bull Ring on Friday, topping both sessions and out-pacing Vettel by nearly two tenths in Practice Two.

"The auto feels fantastically fast here".

Speaking about the incident, Hamilton said: "I just said that, for me, I have the utmost respect for him as a driver and will continue to race him hard as a driver as we always have and no less hard". "The next day when we were texting there was an apology and I did accept it". "It was good to see we made progress with the car's aerodynamics, as any steps are welcome".

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The second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas was third, with Vettel nearly half a second down on Hamilton.

Speaking afterwards but before news of his impending grid demotion broke, Hamilton told reporters: "The vehicle felt good".

"It's a short track so you imagine it'll be close". They seemed very quick whenever they went out today. The track felt pretty good from the get go, the grip was fantastic from the start.

Verstappen split Hamilton and Bottas with an impressive late run in the final minutes of the session, and he looked as though he might top the timesheet with one last effort, only for another spin to curtail it.

"I think we could have been a bit faster".

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