After topping the Friday morning times, Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg was again quickest at the Red Bull Ring, though team-mate Lewis Hamilton closed within two hundredths of a second of the championship leader in a rain disrupted FP2 in Spielberg.
Rosberg’s best time of 1:07.967, almost sixth tenths slower than his best lap of the morning, was set early in the afternoon, just before heavy rain began to sweep across the circuit in Austria’s Styrian mountains.
The downpour first affected the final two corners of the short nine-corner circuit, leading to a number of drivers having to make their way gingerly to the pits on slick tyres in torrential conditions.
The heavy rain swiftly spread across the whole circuit, however, and led to a cessation of running as teams waited for the conditions to improve.
When the rain abated a number of drivers tested the conditions on intermediate tyres, a useful exercise given forecast predicting more unsettled conditions for tomorrow and Sunday.
With 20 minutes left on the clock the track had dried sufficiently for slicks to be used again and during the final phase of the session many drivers made gains, with Hamilton closing to 0.019s back from Rosberg with a late lap on ultrasoft tyres.
At the close of the session Nico Hulkenberg finished third quickest, 0.613s adrift of Rosberg. His nearest challenger was the morning’s third-fastest man Sebastian Vettel who finished just nine thousandths of a second behind his compatriot.
In the closing moments of the session Vettel began a quick lap but as he braked for Turn 2 the rear end of his Ferrari snapped out and the German was pitched off circuit at high speed, though the gravel trap did its job and he halted before hitting the tyre wall at the corner.
Daniel Ricciardo was fifth quickest ahead of Carlos Sainz, Max Verstappen and Kimi Raikkonen, with Valtteri Bottas and Jenson Button completing the top ten.
2016 Austrian Grand Prix – Free Practice
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:07.967 25
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:07.986 19
3 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:08.580 28
4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:08.589 25
5 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:08.649 30
6 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:08.713 32
7 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1:08.761 20
8 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:08.820 23
9 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:08.941 24
10 Jenson Button McLaren 1:08.994 30
11 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:09.075 26
12 Felipe Massa Williams 1:09.184 17
13 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:09.207 26
14 Sergio Perez Force India 1:09.226 32
15 Kevin Magnussen Renault 1:09.525 19
16 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:10.020 23
17 Pascal Wehrlein Manor 1:10.034 20
18 Esteban Gutierrez Haas 1:10.138 16
19 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:10.140 19
20 Romain Grosjean Haas 1:10.400 31
21 Felipe Nasr Sauber 1:10.444 22
22 Rio Haryanto Manor 1:11.328 25