Perez tops opening practice in 'pink Mercedes'

Spielberg bei Knittelfeld (Austria) (AFP) –


Sergio Perez topped the times in Racing Point's 'pink Mercedes' in Friday’s Styrian Grand Prix opening free practice, the Mexican out-pacing Max Verstappen of Red Bull by 0.096 seconds.

Perez, on soft tyres on a hot day at the Red Bull Ring circuit, clocked a best lap in one minute and 4.867 to claim a top spot ahead of the Dutchman.

His sizzling showing in air temperatures touching 30 degrees Celsius confirmed the potential of this year's Racing Point car, based closely on last season's title-winning Mercedes.

Perez reached Q3 for the first time in eight races in qualifying for last weekend's season-opening Austrian Grand Prix.

Last Sunday’s race winner Valtteri Bottas was third for Mercedes ahead of team-mate and six-time champion Lewis Hamilton, Lance Stroll in the second Force India and Alex Albon in the second Red Bull.

Ferrari-bound Carlos Sainz was seventh for McLaren ahead of Pierre Gasly of Alpha Tauri, Daniel Ricciardo of Renault and four-time champion Sebastian Vettel, who is in his final season with Ferrari. His Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc was 12th, the team continuing to struggle for pace as they had the previous weekend.

The session was largely uneventful except for a brief red-flag interval when Nicholas Latifi’s car had to be recovered after he suffered gearbox problems.