Gabriel Bortoleto hit the ground running in Spielberg, setting the track record with a 1:19.410 to top Free Practice for Trident. The Brazilian was 0.148s quicker than Jenzer Motorsport’s Taylor Barnard, while Gabriele Minì left it late to take third for Hitech Pulse-Eight.
Once the tyre preparation laps were complete, Paul Aron set the initial benchmark to beat with a 1:21.998 on his first effort. The Estonian’s 1:21.205 was three-tenths quicker than PREMA Racing teammate Dino Beganovic, who had a heart-in-mouth moment shortly after. The Swede had fast reactions to keep his car pointing the right way following a huge snap of oversteer that sent him wide at the penultimate corner on his next attempt.
Luke Browning was next to go to the top as the times continued to fall. The Hitech Pulse-Eight driver’s 1:21.056 was just 0.027s quicker than Caio Collet in P2, while Grégoire Saucy filtered into third with just under half an hour remaining. Championship leader Bortoleto assumed the top spot with 26 minutes to go, becoming the first driver into the 1:20s with a 1:20.929.
With just over 16 minutes remaining, the Red Flags were out after Sebastián Montoya beached his #14 Hitech Pulse-Eight in the gravel trap on the outside of Turn 7. The session resumed with 12 minutes left on the clock and everyone returned to the track on soft Pirelli tyres having run their carry-over hard tyres earlier on.
ART Grand Prix’s Saucy was first in the queue with prime track position and set a 1:20.306 for the rest to beat. Franco Colapinto and then Collet were able to do so, the Brazilian dipping into the 1:19s with less than five minutes to go.
Aron, Colapinto and Collet all improved on their next laps, but it was Bortoleto that went quickest, setting a 1:19.410 to take the top spot. Taylor Barnard was one of the late improvers as he moved his Jenzer Motorsport #27 up to second, while Minì went third-fastest in the final seconds of the session, 0.253s down on the top time.
Collet made a promising start to the weekend for Van Amersfoort Racing, finishing Practice fourth. He was ahead of Colapinto, Browning, Aron, Josep María Martí, Beganovic and Saucy, with the Swiss rounding out the top 10.
Qualifying is set to get underway at 15:00 local time.