Mercedes & Lewis Hamilton cruise

Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton posted the fastest time in the first two practice sessions for the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix on Friday.

The British driver twice finished ahead of his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas on the 4.3-kilometre Red Bull Ring circuit. Bottas was .356 seconds behind Hamilton in the damp and overcast morning run and improved to .197 back as the track dried and became warmer in the afternoon.

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen, who has won the past two races here, was third quickest in the first practice but slipped to eighth in the second.

Later, Red Bull lodged an official protest against Mercedes after the champions used a controversial new Dual Axis Steering (DAS) system in practice. The action concerned the cars of Hamilton and Bottas, with team representatives summoned to stewards at the Red Bull Ring.

Mercedes were running the system for the first time at a race weekend after it raised questions in pre-season testing.

Ferrari struggled for speed in the morning with Charles Leclerc 10th quickest and Sebastian Vettel only 12th, but improved in the afternoon with Vettel pushing up to fourth behind Sergio Perez in third. Perez’s Racing Point team uses Mercedes engines.