Charles Leclerc tops FP2 at Austrian GP as Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen crash

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Valtteri Bottas was taken to the medical centre after crashing out of second practice for the Austrian Grand Prix.

Bottas lost control of his Mercedes at 130mph through the left-handed sixth corner before slamming into the barriers.

The Finnish driver sustained serious damage to the front of his Mercedes in the accident.

Bottas emerged from his cockpit before heading to the on-track hospital after he triggered an impact of more than 25G.

Bottas’s incident was the second flashpoint at the Red Bull Ring after Max Verstappen also crashed out.

The Dutchman was taking on the penultimate corner when his Red Bull snapped away from him.

Verstappen spun backwards into the barriers, writing off the rear of his car. Like Bottas, he would play no further part in the session.

There was drama for Sebastian Vettel, too, who produced an almost carbon-copy of Verstappen’s mistake, but avoided any damage, the German coming to a halt before the barriers. He managed to limp back to the pits in his Ferrari.

It was Vettel’s team-mate Charles Leclerc who set the pace, the Monegasque finishing a third of a second faster than anybody else.

Mercedes have won every race this season, but Leclerc’s pace will provide the Scuderia with the hope they can finally challenge the all-conquering Silver Arrows this weekend.

Bottas’ time before his accident was good enough for second, with the Red Bull of Pierre Gasly third in the order.

Lewis Hamilton, who heads into Sunday’s race with a commanding 36-point championship lead over Bottas, topped the time charts in the opening running, but could finish only fourth later in the day.

The world champion, who is bidding for his fifth successive victory after dominating in France last weekend, finished 0.443 sec down on Leclerc.

Vettel, whose running was compromised by his spin, ended the day down in eighth.

McLaren are enjoying something of a resurgence this year, and Carlos Sainz posted the fifth quickest time. The Spaniard was within half a second of Leclerc.

His team-mate, British teenager Lando Norris, finished 10th, more than four tenths off Sainz.

George Russell again held the advantage over his Williams team-mate Robert Kubica. Russell was an eye-watering 1.3 sec faster than the struggling Pole.

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Lewis Hamilton urges F1 bosses not to turn their back on British Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton has put the pressure on Formula One’s owners Liberty Media to agree a new deal with Silverstone, insisting the sport cannot afford to walk away from the British Grand Prix.

Next month’s race is due to be the last staged at the Northamptonshire track unless a contract extension is agreed.

The race organisers had hoped to have a fresh deal in place at least a month before this year’s event. However, with just over a fortnight to go, talks remain ongoing.

It is understood that discussions have taken place this week, with an additional meeting pencilled in for after this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix.

Hamilton, who has won five times at Silverstone, will head into his home race on July 14 as the championship leader, regardless of what happens at the Red Bull Ring on Sunday.

“I truly believe Liberty have got to keep Formula One in the UK and particularly Silverstone,” said Hamilton.

“It is an awesome track, an awesome place, with one of the biggest attendances of the season. You can’t turn your back on that.

“There are some really awesome circuits and Silverstone is one of those. The UK is the foundation of what this sport is.

“If you take away the legendary races and you are left with only new ones, you lose all of the history and culture of what makes Formula One what it is.”

Ahead of the 2017 British Grand Prix, Silverstone triggered a break clause in its contract in the hope of negotiating a better deal amid escalating hosting costs.

It was a public move that did not sit well with Liberty, who were just seven months into their reign at the time.

Liberty are keen to expand the calendar from 21 to 25 races and take the sport to major cities.

Vietnam will stage a race for the first time next year on the streets of its capital city Hanoi, while Zandvoort, 25 miles outside of Amsterdam, is also returning to the calendar after a three-decade absence in 2020.

Silverstone has been an ever-present on the calendar since 1987, while the British Grand Prix has held a permanent slot since the sport’s inception 69 years ago.

Provided by Press Association Sport 

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Time running out at Red Bull for struggling Pierre Gasly

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It’s not easy for anyone’s confidence when their future is called into question barely three months into their new job.

For most people it takes time to adapt to a new team environment, build confidence slowly and then thrive.

However, for Red Bull driver Pierre Gasly, rumours of a potential mid-season demotion have begun to emanate since the second round of the championship.

Although whispers calmed after promising displays in Barcelona and Monaco, his disappointing performance at the French Grand Prix on Sunday has cast his Red Bull future into question again.

Following his 10th-placed finish, rumours circulated around the paddock that the Milton Keynes outfit were looking at Daniil Kvyat or Alexander Albon to replace Gasly sooner rather than later, but Red Bull boss Christian Horner was quick to dismiss the speculation.

But, whether the team claim truth to the rumours or not, the temperature is increasing in Gasly’s sizzling hot seat.

It doesn’t take a motorsport fan to see he is struggling.

The 24-year-old has been out-qualified in seven of the eight races by team-mate Max Verstappen, and has yet to finish ahead of the Dutchman this campaign.

Verstappen is clearly a better driver, but for two men in the exact same car, one would expect closer results rather than staggering differences.

If we’re to look at qualifying this season, Gasly has an average start of 10.5 on the grid, making it through to Q3 on five occasions. On race day, he has recorded an average finish of 8.9, with his best result coming in the form of P5 in Monaco.

If he was in a Toro Rosso, we’d be nodding in approval at his formidable displays, but in a championship-contending car like the Red Bull, he should be on the fringes of top-five finishes most weeks instead of being beaten by McLaren, Haas or even Renault drivers.

In contrast, Verstappen has been impressive, crossing the chequered flag in an average position of 3.9 and starting race day in an average position of 4.8. He has also been on the podium twice. Certainly signs of a man who is getting the most out of the car.

For the third best team behind Mercedes and Ferrari, these results cannot continue and Gasly either needs to step up fast this weekend in Austria or risk being demoted.

Assuming Red Bull promote another driver to be Verstappen’s new team-mate, who would it be?

Albon looks the preferred option between him and Kvyat. The Great Britain-born Thai has taken almost the opposite path to Gasly in his maiden season, but the one perhaps he would have wished for.

Albon (l) and Gasly (r).

To compare his first eight races at Toro Rosso to Gasly’s in 2018, Albon has had a more impressive start – averaging a qualifying position of 12.6 in contrast to the Frenchman’s 14.2. On race day, he averaged a 12.1 place finish in comparison to Gasly’s 13.6 average.

Gasly though did record a stunning P4 in Baku last year, while Albon’s best to date was P8 in Monaco.

The Rouen native is not a basket case by any means, but for whatever the reason may be, things are not clicking for him at Red Bull, and perhaps a demotion could be a good thing for his career and confidence.

It might sound crazy but if he can reset away from spotlight, the pressure of racing alongside Verstappen and the pressure of expecting significant results, then maybe he can rediscover who he actually is and what he wants to achieve going forward as a driver.

A season or two back at Toro Rosso, with improved results, will also put him in the shop window for a switch across to another team in future seasons.

Either way it doesn’t look like he will be a Red Bull driver next season.

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