Max Verstappen continues his dominance in Spielberg after topping first practice

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Lewis Hamilton finished only seventh as Max Verstappen posted the fastest time in opening practice for the Austrian Grand Prix.

Following his crushing performance at Spielberg’s Red Bull Ring last Sunday, Verstappen topped the time charts in the first running at the same venue for this weekend’s race.

The championship leader finished 0.266 seconds clear of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, with Hamilton more than half-a-second adrift of his rival.

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Ahead of the ninth of 23 scheduled rounds, Hamilton insisted he is refusing to allow negative thoughts to creep into his mindset.

But the seven-time world champion, who trails Verstappen by 18 points, is lacking pace in a Mercedes which has so often held the advantage in recent seasons.

Instead it is Verstappen’s Red Bull team who are bidding for a fifth win on the bounce with Hamilton last tasting victory on May 9 at the Spanish Grand Prix.

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Verstappen ruled the roost last weekend and the 23-year-old, who will be roared on by tens of thousands of Dutch supporters on Sunday, appears the man to beat.

Yuki Tsunoda, who took an early trip across the gravel at Turn 5, finished fifth for AlphaTauri, one spot behind Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas.

The grid are trialling a prototype Pirelli on Friday – hastily introduced by the tyre manufacturer following high-speed blowouts suffered by Verstappen and Lance Stroll in Baku last month.

Stroll complained of a lack of grip throughout the one-hour running and twice spun in his Aston Martin.

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First, the Canadian ran wide on the exit of Turn 6 sending him on to the grass on the opposing side of the circuit before then going on to lose control of his Aston Martin on the exit of the final corner. He managed to escape both incidents without damage.

Chinese driver Guanyu Zhou, making his grand prix debut as a first-practice replacement for Alpine’s Fernando Alonso, finished 14th of the 20 runners.

In his second appearance for Alfa Romeo, Briton Callum Ilott was 16th, 1.4 seconds off the pace.

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