Enzo Fittipaldi showcased his excellent form as he topped the first Practice session in Spielberg, kickstarting the second half of the season.
Rodin Carlin and Red Bull junior set an impressive time of 1:15.216 before the halfway mark and maintained his position at the top throughout. Despite two Red Flag interruptions, preventing further improvements, Victor Martins secured second place, just a tenth of a second behind, while Championship leader Frederik Vesti settled for third.
The Red Bull Ring witnessed scorching track temperatures nearing 40°C as Roy Nissany initially set the pace. The PHM Racing by Charouz driver’s time of 1:16.539 put him a mere 0.025s ahead of the Rodin Carlin duo, with Fittipaldi and Zane Maloney trailing closely.
Théo Pourchaire briefly claimed the fastest time on his second flying lap using the soft tires, only to be overtaken by his ART Grand Prix teammate, Martins, who broke into the 1:15s. Fittipaldi engaged in a battle for supremacy with the Alpine junior, trading fastest laps. Eventually, Fittipaldi pulled ahead, establishing a 0.184s lead at the 26-minute mark with a time of 1:15.216.
Ahead of the round, Vesti emphasized the significance of a strong Free Practice session to set the foundation for his weekend. The #7 PREMA Racing driver demonstrated this by swiftly climbing from 18th to 3rd place.
As the session reached its midpoint, the focus shifted to accumulating mileage, with drivers steadily increasing their lap counts. Nevertheless, the drivers didn’t shy away from pushing their limits. Dennis Hauger of MP Motorsport encountered a slide out of the final corner, costing him his attempt and the subsequent one.
The first Red Flag emerged with 11 minutes remaining when Pourchaire spun out at Turn 4. His car skidded into the gravel, resulting in a spin that prevented him from restarting.
Green flag conditions were restored with six minutes left on the clock. However, amidst the jostling for track position, Amaury Cordeel of Invicta Virtuosi Racing spun off at Turn 1. With less than four minutes remaining, the session was red-flagged once again and did not resume.
Isack Hadjar of Hitech Pulse-Eight secured fourth place, followed by Red Bull junior Ayumu Iwasa. Kush Maini achieved the sixth-fastest time, leading Arthur Leclerc, Hauger, Jack Doohan, and Clément Novalak, who completed the top 10 for Trident.
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Fittipaldi aims to replicate his impressive performance later in the afternoon during the qualifying session, scheduled to commence at 15:55 local time.
Image: Rodin Carlin