The Red Bull driver produced a 1m05.143s on soft tyres to end FP1 two-tenths clear of Charles Leclerc and his Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz.

Valtteri Bottas was 0.302s off shy of Verstappen’s benchmark as the fastest Mercedes driver, ahead of AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda and Kimi Raikkonen, who set an eye-catching time to go sixth for Alfa Romeo.

Lewis Hamilton, who comes into this weekend 18 points behind Verstappen in the championship, was only seventh-fastest in his Mercedes.

The seven-time world champion finished over half a second off the pace and almost made contact with Nikita Mazepin at Turn 3 when the Haas driver failed to properly get out of the way during a slow lap.

Hamilton locked up under braking for the corner but managed to avoid collecting Mazepin, who came over team radio to report: “That was close.”

Sergio Perez, Pierre Gasly and Lando Norris completed the top-10 order for Red Bull, AlphaTauri and McLaren.

FP1 saw the teams test out Pirelli’s new prototype tyre that is expected to be introduced at the British Grand Prix in two weeks’ time.

Each driver was given 12-timed laps on Pirelli’s latest offering, which have a modified rear construction that features higher covering stiffness at high loads.

Guanyu Zhou impressed on his F1 practice debut by setting the 14th-fastest time - four-tenths behind Esteban Ocon - for Alpine as he became the first Chinese driver to participate in an official grand prix session since the 2013 Chinese Grand Prix.

The Formula 2 championship leader drove his hero Fernando Alonso’s car for the opening hour session, with the two-time world champion returning to his A521 in the afternoon.

Ferrari test driver Callum Ilott finished 16th in his second FP1 outing for Alfa Romeo as he drove Antonio Giovinazzi’s car, while Roy Nissany was quicker than Nicholas Latifi in his latest run-out for Williams.

Aston Martin's Lance Stroll suffered a pair of spins in FP1, while Tsunoda also took a tip through the gravel as drivers struggled for grip in the cool temperatures. 

Click here for full opening practice results at the 2021 F1 Austrian Grand Prix.