British driver Jake Hughes set the fastest time in practice for Round 8 of the 2022 FIA Formula 2 Championship in Austria, in a session halted for a red flag.
Hughes, driving for Dutch team Van Amersfoort Racing, set a 1:15.038 and was more than four-tenths of a second faster than ART Grand Prix’s Théo Pourchaire.
The session was disrupted twice, firstly for a Virtual Safety Car as Calan Williams’ Trident car stopped with apparent suspension damage and later when the red flag was flown for Enzo Fittipaldi’s slide off into the gravel.
The session was promising for Hughes’ VAR team as team mate Amaury Cordeel, returning from a race ban in Silverstone, cracked the top 10 and was seventh fastest for the team bottom of the teams’ standings in 2022.
However, the strongest session was from ART, with their drivers Pourchaire and Frederick Vesti second and third fastest, for the team second in the teams’ standings.
Championship leader Felipe Drugovich was only ninth fastest after having several laps deleted for exceeding track limits and receiving the black and white flag due to multiple offences, meaning he would be required to speak to the race stewards post session.
Feature Race winner in Silverstone Logan Sargeant, third in the drivers’ standings, finished the session 10th quickest, but there was no running done on the super-soft tyre, which will be saved for use in Friday afternoon’s Qualifying session.
The 30-minute Qualifying session begins at 15:55 CEST (14:55 BST), follow our updates on our Twitter page.
Story of the session
Practice for Round 8 of the 2022 FIA Formula 2 Championship began with a drying track after the Formula 3 cars ran on a wet track earlier in the day.
Jake Hughes was the first driver to have a lap compromised by traffic between the final two corners, with three cars ahead of the British driver, giving a snapshot into how Qualifying might look later on in the afternoon.
Calan Williams’ session came to an early end after less than 10 minutes. He ran wide at Turn 3, with damage to the left rear corner of the car, which brought out a Virtual Safety Car to allow track marshals to remove the Trident Motorsport car.
Replays appeared to suggest the Australian’s car had suffered a suspension issue.
As the track grip levels improved, the drivers began to set more representative lap times, with Ayumu Iwasa, Dennis Hauger, and Marcus Armstrong the first to break into the 1m 16s.
However, Logan Sargeant picked up where he left off in Silverstone, by edging into the 1m 15s, buoyed with the confidence that comes with a maiden F2 win.
Sargeant then improved his time, going fastest after 19 minutes of the session, without setting a “purple” fastest sector, but completing the overall fastest time to that point of practice, before Théo Pourchaire edged the American out by 0.068s.
Jehan Daruvala made the first trip into the gravel at Turn 4, but he recovered his car to the track.
Many drivers saw lap times deleted, with the white line defining the edge of the track, Liam Lawson having two consecutive laps deleted for exceeding track limits.
Charouz Racing System’s Enzo Fittipaldi spun off at Turn 7, with 16 minutes left on the clock, causing a red flag.
The session resumed with 12 minutes to go and the majority of the field headed back out to gain more knowledge and data ahead of the two races this weekend.
Iwasa was immediately able to make improvements on both of his first two laps back on track, moving a tenth clear of Pourchaire, Hauger also making improvements, leaping up to second place.
Armstrong then produced a tidy lap, reaching the top of the times without setting the best sector time, pipping Iwasa by less the two hundredths of a second.
VAR’s Jake Hughes hustled his car to the top of the leaderboard, fighting his car through Turn 9 and going half a second faster than anyone else with three minutes remaining.
Only ART’s Pourchaire could get within half a second of the Brit, as Hughes topped practice.
There was still time for drama after the chequered flag as Olli Caldwell pulled his Campos off to the side of the pit straight as everyone made their practice starts.
Image: Formula Motorsport Limited