Mercedes were later in the spotlight after Red Bull lodged an official protest against their new dual axis steering system, but the move was rejected by stewards who declared it legal.
Racing Point, whose Mercedes-powered RP20 has been dubbed the “Pink Mercedes” because of its striking similarity to Hamilton’s title-winning 2019 car, were third fastest with Mexican Sergio Perez.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, starting his last season in the Italian team’s red colours, was fourth fastest on his 33rd birthday with Australian Daniel Ricciardo fifth for Renault and McLaren’s Lando Norris sixth.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, winner of the past two races at his team’s home track, was third in the first session but spun twice and finished up eighth after lunch.
Sunday’s race, the first of two in Austria on successive weekends, became the opener after coronavirus forced the cancellation of the scheduled Australian opener on March 15 before a wheel had turned.
Friday marked the first time all the drivers had been on track together since pre-season testing in Barcelona in February.
The last race was in Abu Dhabi in December last year, when Hamilton won from pole position and set the fastest lap.
“It’s good to hear the engines and see cars again and almost get back to some phase of normality,” said Red Bull boss Christian Horner.
“We all look like we’re in some kind of hospital program, with all the face masks and the PPE [personal protective equipment] … but, other than that, working practices are very much as normal.”
The race is being run under strict health and safety conditions, with teams operating in bubbles and isolated from each other. Drivers wear face masks when talking to the media by video link. The race will be run completely without spectators, a Formula One first.
“We are all used to a lot of fans in the campsites, grandstands … but the most important thing is we are finally back on track and can put up a good show,” McLaren principal Andreas Seidl said.
McLaren triggered the abandonment of the Australian race in Melbourne after an employee tested positive for the virus. Seidl said the entire team had a clean bill of health after the latest tests.
Source: Daily Mail