SPEILBERG BEI KNITTELFELD – World champion Lewis Hamilton bounced back from a poor morning session to set the fastest time in second free practice for the Austrian Grand Prix in Spielberg on Friday.
Hamilton clocked a quickest lap of 1min 04.523sec which was 0.189sec up on his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas with championship leader Max Verstappen in third 0.217sec back.
The Red Bull driver, who is looking for an Austrian double after winning last weekend's Styrian Grand Prix on the same circuit, was over half a second quicker than Hamilton in the opening session with the Briton running only seventh.
Hamilton trails Verstappen by 18 points in the title race, with in-form Red Bull aiming for a fifth consecutive win on Sunday.
His name at the top of the afternoon time sheets will give Mercedes hope they can stop Verstappen pulling further ahead in the drivers' standings.
But the seven-time world champion is wary of reading too much into Friday's positive showing by the two Silver Arrows.
"They (Red Bull) have definitely got some extra in their bag, I already know that. We have made some small progress today but I think they still had the 0.2secs (last weekend's gap), or maybe 0.15secs.
"We have definitely made some small steps forward but not enough. Over a single lap, that felt pretty good.
"I'm generally happy with where the car is and I'm probably not going to change much except the tiniest of tweaks."
The first practice was faster than the corresponding session last week thanks to cooler temperatures in the Austrian mountains and a switch to softer tyres.
The second practice followed suit until rain intervened in the last half hour. Not enough to really wet the track, but enough to hamper the drivers.
Hamilton spun off into the gravel on the last corner, without doing any damage while Lance Stroll also left the track several times.
Stroll and his Aston Martin teammate Sebastian Vettel were fourth and fifth fastest, followed by the Alpha Tauris of Yuki Tsunoda and Pierre Gasly.
It was the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc who ran Verstappen closest in the morning but he and teammate Carlos Sainz, who had been third, dropped right off the pace in the afternoon.
The final practice session takes place on Saturday at 1000 GMT with qualifying due to start at 1300 GMT.