Fernando Alonso was the closest challenger to the ever dominant Mercedes on Friday in practice for the Austrian Grand Prix.

The Spaniard put his Ferrari third in both sessions at the Red Bull Ring, but while the gap was only 0.311 seconds in FP1, it was a rather more alarming 0.928 seconds in FP2.

Speaking after the session though, he said that 'anything was possible' for the rest of the weekend. He also added how good it was to be back in Austria. He is one of the few still competing that raced at the track in its former guise as the A1 Ring back in 2003 - the others being his Ferrari team-mate, Kimi Raikkonen and McLaren man Jenson Button.

"It's nice to be back racing here, the track has many changes of gradient and that always makes for enjoyable driving," Alonso noted.

"In both sessions, Kimi and I were on different programmes and now we must put all the data together to choose which of the elements we tested have worked best.

"There were no surprises on the tyre front, the Supersoft seems quicker and will definitely be the tyre for qualifying, but for the race, it's impossible to establish now what the strategy will be.

"It was always cloudy today and there were even a few drops of rain, but the next days are meant to be sunny and so tyre behaviour could change. The good forecast means that anything is possible and hopefully that means the chance to put on a good show for the fans who were already here in large numbers today."

Ferrari's director of engineering Pat Fry meanwhile added that he expects qualifying to be extremely competitive.

"Qualifying will be very close, especially because on such a short track, just a tenth of a second can win or lose you several places on the grid, so we will need to get a clean lap without traffic," he explained.

"As far as race pace is concerned, behind the Mercedes there's a group of cars all quite close together, doing very similar lap times, so a good grid position would mean not having to chase after the others."