Austro-Italian leads the way at sun-soaked Red Bull Ring
Mirko Bortolotti headed the timesheets during the opening free practice session for rounds 11 and 12 of the FIA Formula Two Championship at a sweltering Red Bull Ring.
The 21-year-old title leader was the first to get to grips with the new 4.3km Austrian circuit lapping with a best time 1:23.312s. His nearest rival Christopher Zanella ended the 45-minute session second quickest with Brands Hatch winner Jack Clarke in P3.
Romanian Mihai Marinescu and Ramon Pineiro rounded out the top five with all drivers lapping in the 1min 23s.
In temperatures peaking at 32 degrees, a packed grid of 22 drivers, including two new faces with Rene Binder and Luciano Bacheta, took to the unfamiliar 4.3km track.
Bortolotti, Marinescu, Mikkel Mac and Pineiro all laid down early benchmarks at the top of the timesheets lapping in the low 1min 24s. The Austro-Italian was then the first to break into the 1min 23s, followed by Marinescu and later Pineiro.
Newcomer Bacheta was also looking quick running in the top 10 for the majority of the session and ending an impressive eighth on his first F2 outing with Binder also looking strong in the midfield.
With less than 10 minutes remaining, Brit Clarke shot into second place with Zanella moving up to fourth before the two ended fourth and second respectively.
Meanwhile, Frenchman Lariche was looking quick in sixth place with Tobias Hegewald seventh and Bacheta eighth. Alex Brundle and Julian Theobald completed the top 10 with all of the front-runners lapping inside one second showing the closely fought nature of the series.
Sunghak Mun also produced one of his best performances with 11th while Spaniard Miki Monras – who currently lies third in the drivers’ standings – could only manage a best of 15th.
Today’s second free practice session gets underway at 14:40 with full coverage on the official F2 website.
Results: Red Bull Ring – Free practice one:
1. Mirko Bortolotti, 1:23.312s
2. Christopher Zanella, +0.221s
3. Jack Clarke, +0.289s
4. Mihai Marinescu, +0.313s
5. Ramon Pineiro, +0.575s
6. Benjamin Lariche, +0.669s
7. Tobias Hegewald, +0.679s
8. Luciano Bacheta, +0.729s
9. Alex Brundle, +0.848s
10. Julian Theobald, +1.038s