Van Amersfoort Racing’s Jake Hughes set the pace in Free Practice, ending up fastest of all by four-tenths. The Briton’s 1:15.038 was a late effort that put him clear of the pack, followed by ART Grand Prix teammates Théo Pourchaire and Frederik Vesti.
Just 0.230s separated second position from 10th as the short layout of the circuit closed the gaps between all the drivers.
Overnight rain had cleared by the time Free Practice got underway in Spielberg, but the task at hand was far from simple. With such a short lap around the Red Bull Ring, traffic was a challenge almost immediately. Jake Hughes was set to go fastest until the final two corners where he had to avoid three cars comprising a moving chicane.
Calan Williams’ stranded Trident brought out the Virtual Safety Car as he stopped on the side of the road beyond Turn 3. His #21 car was cleared quickly, and things were back to green shortly after.
Marcus Armstrong moved to the top of the times as the clock ticked over 15 minutes gone, quicker than F2’s newest winner Logan Sargeant by just 0.062s.
Improvements from a few more bunched the pack up further. The American driver went fastest with a 1:15.861 with 26 minutes left while Felipe Drugovich managed to move into fourth, leaving the top four separated by just 0.036s.
A red flag was thrown with 17 minutes remaining following a spin for Charouz Racing System’s Enzo Fittipaldi out of Turn 6. The Brazilian’s car was recovered from the gravel trap and the session got back underway with 12 minutes to go.
Ayumu Iwasa was the next to put himself fastest on a 1:15.601. Dennis Hauger almost matched him, 0.022s back in P2. Armstrong went back into P1 as the clock ticked underneath five minutes to go and the track reached its best conditions.
Hughes was fighting his VAR car through the final two corners but wrestled it across the line to go fastest by some margin. His 1:15.038 was almost half a second quicker than anyone else. Nobody could get closer to the Briton than Pourchaire, who finished the session just over four-tenths down on the VAR driver.