Lewis Hamilton eased into qualifying for the Formula 1 Austrian Grand Prix on the back foot. A gearbox change meant he was never in contention for pole position and a brake disc failure in Free Practice 3 just added mechanical issues to his grand prix weekend.
The Mercedes troubles for Lewis meant that the pressure was on for Valtteri Bottas to pick up the baton for the team and try to get his Mercedes on pole. For Ferrari, it was a case of trying to claw back the loss of pace that some in the paddock suggest was lost when the FIA clamped down on burning oil in the cylinder and oddly, the performance was there, the ban cam and this week the head of engine development for Ferrari quit. All very strange coincidences or related? You be the judge.
The other talking point was how punishing this track was with aggressive curbing that was tearing up the underside of the cars that took a little too much curb. There were some overnight changes but even with those improvements, the curbs still seemed too aggressive.
Lewis Hamilton set the pace followed by Sebastian Vettel but it was Williams who struggled to claw its way into Q2 and this is from a team that had an upgrade this weekend and had locked out the front row at this track in previous years. Neither Lance Stroll nor Felipe Massa could manage to get into Q2.
Both Williams and Sauber’s were joined by Renault’s Jolyon Palmer in the elimination zone and out in Q1. Shocking result for Williams who typically do well at this circuit. Both McLaren drivers made it to Q2 with Stoffel Vandoorne using the new stage 3 Honda engine and Fernando Alonso using the older Stage 2.
The string of very impressive laps for Haas F1’s Romain Grosjean continued into Q2 running in the top 5 while his teammate made it into Q2 but couldn’t participate due to suspension damage.
The tactical move of the session was Lewis Hamilton setting a very competitive lap time on the Supersoft compounds while the other leaders were using the Ultrasoft compounds. The tire used in this session is the tires they will start the race on and with Lewis’s 5-spot grid penalty and the harder compound, it may be a key move tactically to set him up for a good shot for a win on Sunday.
Nico Hulkenberg, both McLaren’s Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat and Haas F1’s Kevin Magnussen were out in Q2. The session was led by Valtteri Bottas and the Red Bull’s slowly moved toward the top at their home circuit led by Max Verstappen. Both Force India drivers moved into Q3.
With a circuit this short and only 10 turns and 64s lap times, there isn’t much to play for between the top teams. Valtteri set the initial quick laps at the top with Vettel just .042s behind him. The Red Bulls chose the lull between first and second runs to do their work putting them 5th and 6th with Daniel Ricciardo leading.
Romain Grosjean complained of drivability but was ahead of the Force India’s when his car stopped on track causing yellow flags in Sector 2 scuttling the rest of the session and spoiling final runs for Ferrari and Mercedes. Max Verstappen also went off track trying to push the limit and best his teammate’s qualifying performance.
In the end, it was Valtteri Bottas who did exactly what the team needed him to do given Lewis’s grid-spot penalty and that was to secure pole position. He did so just ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen.
|1||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team||Mercedes||1m04.251s||–|
|2||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari||Ferrari||1m04.293s||0.042s|
|3||Kimi Raikkonen||Scuderia Ferrari||Ferrari||1m04.779s||0.528s|
|4||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing||Red Bull/Renault||1m04.896s||0.645s|
|5||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing||Red Bull/Renault||1m04.983s||0.732s|
|6||Romain Grosjean||Haas F1 Team||Haas/Ferrari||1m05.480s||1.229s|
|7||Sergio Perez||Sahara Force India F1 Team||Force India/Mercedes||1m05.605s||1.354s|
|8||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team||Mercedes||1m04.424s||0.173s|
|9||Esteban Ocon||Sahara Force India F1 Team||Force India/Mercedes||1m05.674s||1.423s|
|10||Carlos Sainz||Scuderia Toro Rosso||Toro Rosso/Renault||1m05.726s||1.475s|
|11||Nico Hulkenberg||Renault Sport F1 Team||Renault||1m05.597s||1.346s|
|12||Fernando Alonso||McLaren Honda||McLaren/Honda||1m05.602s||1.351s|
|13||Stoffel Vandoorne||McLaren Honda||McLaren/Honda||1m05.741s||1.490s|
|14||Daniil Kvyat||Scuderia Toro Rosso||Toro Rosso/Renault||1m05.884s||1.633s|
|15||Kevin Magnussen||Haas F1 Team||Haas/Ferrari||–||–|
|16||Jolyon Palmer||Renault Sport F1 Team||Renault||1m06.345s||2.094s|
|17||Felipe Massa||Williams Martini Racing||Williams/Mercedes||1m06.534s||2.283s|
|18||Lance Stroll||Williams Martini Racing||Williams/Mercedes||1m06.608s||2.357s|
|19||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber F1 Team||Sauber/Ferrari||1m06.857s||2.606s|
|20||Pascal Wehrlein||Sauber F1 Team||Sauber/Ferrari||1m07.011s||2.760s|