Racing Point showed further potential in free practice two in Austria, with Sergio Perez finishing third behind a dominant Mercedes.
The Silverstone-based team completed more laps than anyone else, and while Perez stole the headlines for the team, Lance Stroll also showed promise early on but was unable to match his teammate’s flying lap and placed seventh.
Lewis Hamilton again set the fastest time of the session, two tenths ahead of Valterri Bottas, with the black-liveried Silver Arrows clearly a cut above the rest of the field, leading by nearly half a second.
Ferrari put on a better showing with Vettel fourth fastest, making that lap on a set of hard tyres, ahead of Red Bull, Renault and McLaren.
However, Charles Leclerc has yet to trouble the top five this weekend, finishing the session in ninth and a second back from Hamilton.
Renault also improved as Daniel Ricciardo ended the session fifth and was very close to Vettel’s time although Esteban Ocon struggled to match his teammate, and the team completed less laps than their rivals.
Red Bull, one of the favourites coming into the weekend, continued to struggle with car balance – Alexander Albon suffered a spin on turn three and also had trouble with too much front-end downforce initially on the soft tyres.
They were losing a significant margin to Mercedes and Ferrari through fast corners, further suggesting stability problems, but Red Bull said they felt they had more to give.
It looks as if the battle at the back of the grid is becoming clearer – Alpha Tauri, Alfa Romeo and Williams were all running outside the top ten, although for the British team just being competitive with other teams is a step forward.
However, this was one of Alpha Tauri’s weakest tracks last season, so it may not be a true performance indicator.
Also in that pack was Haas, placed 15th and 16th, a step back from their form in FP1 although Romain Grosjean was able to set his first flying lap of the season after a brake pedal issue hampered his morning practice.
Off the track there were further noises from Red Bull that they’d look to appeal Mercedes’ DAS system, hopefully pre-race so it wouldn’t potentially cast a shadow over a race result.
Friday FP2 results
|3||Sergio Perez||Racing Point||+0.641|
|7||Lance Stroll||Racing Point||+0.831|
|8||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||+0.911|
|12||Daniil Kvyat||Alpha Tauri||+1.139|
|13||Alex Albon||Red Bull||+1.149|
|14||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo||+1.304|
|17||Pierre Gasly||Alpha Tauri||+1.712|
|19||Kimi Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo||+1.974|