The Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas has claimed the second pole position of his career at the Austrian Grand Prix following an interesting qualifying session in the Styrian mountains.
Bottas outpaced the world championship leader Sebastian Vettel by less than a tenth of a second around the Red Bull Ring to qualify on pole. The Finn has looked unruffled all weekend, often featuring in the top end of the timesheets in the practice session, as well as setting the pace in Q2. An error-free lap on the first runs in Q3 earned Bottas provisional pole. On the second run for Q3 many drivers were caught out by the end of session yellow-flags for Romain Grosjean who had broke down on track and then for Max Verstappen after he went severely off line in turn seven. Despite this fact both Vettel and Bottas’ team mate Lewis Hamilton did not look like they would beat his time, following mistakes by both of them at the start of their flying laps. Vettel will start in second for the race, his first front row start at the Austrian Grand Prix, while Ferrari team mate Kimi Raikkonen will start third.
Daniel Ricciardo was the highest place Red Bull in fourth ahead of his team mate Max Verstappen in fifth, the first time since April that Ricciardo has outqualified his team mate. Despite his trip through the gravel on his final flying lap in Q3 Verstappen was able to set a lap at the beginning of the session. Though he clearly rued the mistake as he spoke to the media after the session.
“At Turn Seven I tried to be a little too aggressive with the throttle and lost the rear,” said Verstappen. “I’m not sure on pace if we can get both cars on the podium. In terms of race pace, we can’t keep up with Mercedes and Ferrari.”
It was another impressive qualifying session for the Haas team, who despite various break problems all weekend, were able to get Romain Grosjean into the top ten shoot out. He qualified in sixth place in front of Sergio Perez in the Force India.
Hamilton will start the race in eighth place following his five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change. He was third quickest in the session, though the Englishman endured a difficult session and aborted his final run after a series of mistakes. However it is clear the Mercedes team were already looking to tomorrow’s strategy, as Hamilton will start the race on supersoft tyres. He is the only driver in the top ten to be starting on the harder compound tyre, with the other drivers setting their fastest times on the ultrasoft tyres. In what will almost certainly be a one-stop race, Mercedes’ plan will be to run Hamilton for an extended first stint before switching to the faster ultrasoft tyre for a late charge.
The other Force India of Esteban Ocon will start the race in ninth, while Carlos Sainz rounded out the top ten after what has been a difficult weekend so far for the Spanish driver. Sainz has been publicly told off by both Helmut Marco, head of the Red Bull Young Driver program, and Red Bull boss Christian Horner for suggesting he may jump ship at the end of the season to another team as there is no place for him currently at Red Bull.
McLaren’s weekend has carried on in a positive session, as they succeeded in getting both of their cars into Q2 at a circuit which was expected to highlight the weakness of their package. Although Fernando Alonso had to revert to an older unit after running an upgraded Honda engine in practice, the Spaniard managed to qualify in a respectable 12th. Meanwhile Stoffel Vandoorne, will line up 13th just behind his team mate Alonso.
“We’ve definitely made some progress this weekend,” said the Belgian. “We are getting there.”
McLaren may have been helped slightly by some bad luck for the Haas of Kevin Magnussen. The Danish driver made it comfortably into Q2, but suffered a suspension failure meaning he couldn’t partake in the Q2 session. He will start the race from 15th on the grid.
Another team who suffered a horrible qualifying were Williams. Three years ago, Williams locked out the front row at the Red Bull Ring. This weekend, the Grove based team have struggled for balance throughout the sessions, and both of their drivers fell at the first hurdle. Felipe Massa qualified 17th, while 3rd place podium man in Baku Lance Stroll will start 18th, with only the Sauber’s of Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein behind them.
With the shortest lap on the calendar, the threat of rain tomorrow, as well as Hamilton’s contra-strategy, the Austrian Grand Prix is lining up to definitely be one of the more interesting races this season. Especially if we have another final lap like last year…
Austrian Grand Prix Qualifying Results.
1. Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, 1:04.251
2. Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, + 0.042
3. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, + 0.528
4. Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, + 0.645
5. Max Verstappen, Red Bull, + 0.732
6. Romain Grosjean, Haas, + 1.229
7. Sergio Perez, Force India, + 1.354
8. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, (Five Place Grid Penalty added)
9. Esteban Ocon, Force India, + 1.423
10. Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso, + 1.475
Knocked out in Q2
11. Nico Hulkenberg, Renault, 1:05.597
12. Fernando Alonso, McLaren, 1:05.602
13. Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren, 1:05.741
14. Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso, 1:05.884
15. Kevin Magnussen, Haas, No time set
Knocked out in Q1
16. Jolyon Palmer, Renault, 1:06.345
17. Felipe Massa, Williams, 1:06.534
18. Lance Stroll, Williams, 1:06.608
19. Marcus Ericsson, Sauber, 1:06.857
20. Pascal Wehrlein, Sauber, 1:07.011
Feature Image Credit: Mercedes AMG Petronas Press Release