Rosberg leads Hamilton in Austrian GP practice

SPIELBERG, Austria (AP) Nico Rosberg led Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton in both practices for the Austrian Grand Prix on Friday.

The second practice was interrupted for more than 30 minutes as heavy rain and hail drenched the Red Bull Ring.

Running in the first eight minutes before the rain, Rosberg clocked his fastest lap. Hamilton came within .019 seconds after the rain break.

Rosberg also had the fastest time in the dry morning session, with Hamilton .357 seconds behind.

Rosberg has won both races since Formula One returned to Austria, and tops the championship with five wins, and a 24-point lead over defending champion Hamilton.

With the track getting a new surface, it has become even faster.

''The new surface seems to suit our car, maybe even more than the old one. In total, I'm very pleased with the first day,'' Rosberg said.

Sebastian Vettel ended the second practice in the gravel after losing control of his Ferrari late in the session.

''I just lost the car completely hitting the brakes,'' Vettel said over team radio.

Later, the four-time world champion said, ''I had an issue with brake distribution. It caught me by surprise, but it didn't matter too much, as I only lost a couple of minutes, and in the end it didn't make a lot of a difference.

''It is not entirely clear where we stand, as we didn't have a lot of running due to the weather, in particular in the afternoon, but in general the car feels good.''

Vettel, lying a distant third in the standings, ended the second session behind Force India's Nico Hulkenberg. Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo was fifth.

Vettel will be penalized five slots on the starting grid in Sunday's race because of an unscheduled gear-box change.

Rain is also forecast for qualifying on Saturday so the second practice may have been particularly useful to the teams.

Rosberg is seeking his first championship, after seeing his teammate win the last two titles. Hamilton also has an earlier title with McLaren.

Both Mercedes drivers had some problems but dominated the first session. Both spun off during the session, and Jean Grosjean of Haas lost control while trying to avoid Hamilton.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen, the surprise winner in Barcelona, broke his suspension and front wing while running wide and hitting a yellow curb. He also had a spin in the second session.

Vettel and Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen were third and fourth, respectively, in the morning. All were inside a second behind Rosberg.

Ricciardo also finished in the gravel late in the first session and was fifth.

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