Saturday’s Austrian Grand Prix qualifying session was punctuated by a series of suspension failures and more rain but in the end, it was Lewis Hamilton who put his car on pole position.
With pole position in his pocket and his teammate and championship leader, Nico Rosberg, starting seventh due to a gearbox change penalty, Hamilton looks good for Sunday’s race but he does fear the tire strategy of Ferrari:
“We had the supersoft available. I think they saw, I am guessing, Ferrari go out and see if we can do the time, even though there is a time delta.
“Naturally a hard tyre goes further so it doesn’t seem such a bad option they have gone for. That is not a bad thing.
“I think the ultrasoft is not a good tyre for the race so it will be a struggle to get a lot of laps out of it. It will be interesting.
“I hope I have an advantage at the start from being on the softer tyre. In practice, my tyre lasted for four laps. Nico says five, so definitely will be tricky and we will do the best we can with it.”
Now this could come into play here as the FIA have cracked down on some tire pressure trickery that Mercedes were doing with heating the wheel, tire and brake system in order to reduce tire pressure during the race for better grip. If Mercedes have lost that small edge, it could mean that Ferrari’s tire strategy may be an advantage but it will need to be as the team are still off the pace of Hamilton.
The big talking point was the suspension failures of four different constructors and while the circuit has been fitted with the sausage curbs, they have been followed by an even larger curbing called the negative curbing which many are now suggesting is the cause of the all the suspension failures.
The reality is that the teams all test their suspensions and are approved by the FIA and to have four different makes fails on one track is perhaps indicative that something is amiss. Deterring a driver from taking too much curb is one thing, damaging cars is another and as we saw from the violent crash of Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat, possibly dangerous. Kvyat said:
“They should take them off,” Kvyat said. “They’ve done a mistake, they have to admit that it’s stupid.
“Last year we had Astroturf at that corner, which is completely fine – you lose time.
“Now if you go on the kerb you continue because you don’t lose time, but the suspension fails.”
While some are complaining of the curbs, Daniel Ricciardo, Sebastian Vettel and Nico Rosberg have a simple answer—stay off the curbs. Ricciardo says he treats it like a wall and Vettel says that he feels they need to look at it for next year but for now, stay off of them.
Nico Rosberg experienced the same issue as Sergio Perez this weekend with a damaged suspension and it cost him a gearbox change prompting a 5-place grid penalty just like Perez in Baku. Once again, like with Perez, it has raised the question of penalties for parts changed due to damage from a crash.
It also prompted a new discussion over the penalties incurred for changing parts period as Hamilton is now running dangerously close to a penalty as he is on the 5th change for two of his engine components. Another change means a grid penalty of 10 places.
The qualifying session was a dry, wet, dry affair and what we have seen from the new tarmac in Austria is just how fast it dries out. The teams switched to dry tires with just a few minutes left in Q3 and it was going to be the last man across the line who was the fastest.
As it turned out, McLaren’s Jenson Button and Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg factored as two surprises as they will inherit 2nd and 3rd on the grid after Rosberg and Vettel’s penalties. Another surprise was Manor’s Pascal Wehrlein who did a masterful job of getting into Q2.
It all looks good for the defending champion in Austria and that’s if Lewis Hamilton can avoid the curbs and mechanical issues this weekend.
Austrian Grand Prix Qualifying Results
|2||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India/Mercedes||1m09.285s||1.363s|
|5||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull/Renault||1m09.980s||2.058s|
|8||Max Verstappen||Red Bull/Renault||1m11.153s||3.231s|
|15||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso/Ferrari||–||–|
|16||Sergio Perez||Force India/Mercedes||–||–|
|20||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso/Ferrari||1m08.409s||0.487s|
Austrian Grand Prix Starting Grid
1. Lewis Hamilton (Britain) Mercedes 2. Nico Huelkenberg (Germany) Force India - Mercedes 3. Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren 4. Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Ferrari 5. Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Red Bull - TAG Heuer 6. Valtteri Bottas (Finland) Williams-Mercedes 7. Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes 8. Max Verstappen (Netherlands) Red Bull - TAG Heuer 9. Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Ferrari 10. Felipe Massa (Brazil) Williams-Mercedes 11. Esteban Gutierrez (Mexico) Haas - Ferrari 12. Pascal Wehrlein (Germany) Manor - Mercedes 13. Romain Grosjean (France) Haas - Ferrari 14. Fernando Alonso (Spain) McLaren 15. Carlos Sainz Jr (Spain) Toro Rosso - Ferrari 16. Sergio Perez (Mexico) Force India - Mercedes 17. Kevin Magnussen (Denmark) Renault 18. Jolyon Palmer (Britain) Renault 19. Rio Haryanto (Indonesia) Manor - Mercedes 20. Daniil Kvyat (Russia) Toro Rosso - Ferrari 21. Marcus Ericsson (Sweden) Sauber - Ferrari 22. Felipe Nasr (Brazil) Sauber - Ferrari