Qualifying for the Styrian GP in Austria was a wet affair having been delayed after a formally canceled Free Practice 3 session. Still, the weather parted and the rain held off lang enough for a qualifying session to be slid under the door.
With the break in the rain, the teams knew that there was a possibility that they may not get all three sessions in so the cars stacked at the light gantry at the end of the pitman waiting for it to go green. Sebastian Vettel was the first in line. Alex Albon remained in the garage waiting.
Romain Grosjean ran wide into the gravel on his out lap while Vettel put int he first hot lap with a 1:24.235s. Antonio Giovinazzi doing a nice job of following Vettel across the line with George Russell jumping to the top of the time sheet on initial runs briefly before Charles Leclerc jumps ahead.
With 10 minutes left, Lewis Hamilton took his Mercedes to the top of the time sheets quickly followed but Leclerc as the track dried and times began to fall. Max Verstappen then jumped to the top and the drivers began dragging the times down into the 1:20.6s range.
The Racing Point duo of Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll were struggling to stay clear of the elimination zone and as good as they had looked in the dry, they were telling a different story in the wet. Meanwhile, Valtteri Bottas jumped his Mercedes to the top just ahead of Hamilton as midfield contenders jumped to the top amid a drying track with just 5 minutes left.
With just three sets of full-wet tires, the team were very cautious of throwing more tires at the first session in qualifying. Eventually Racing Point were able to get up to 9th with just 3 minutes left but would it be enough as all the teams came out for their final runs? Perez still struggling to get out of the bottom five as George Russell jumped to 9th and in to Q2. The first time since Brazil in 2018 that the team made it into Q2.
Out in Q1- Romain Grosjean (no time set), Sergio Perez, Antonio Giovinazzi, Kimi Raikkonen, Nicholas Latifi
Fewer cars were stacked at pit exit for the start of the session as the sessions began but it still looked like a car park. Sebastian Vettel, once again, led the pack.
On initial runs, it was Bottas at the top with a 1:19.006s as the benchmark for the session. Leclerc and Pierre Gasly followed in 2nd and 3rd proving the changing condition of the track. Despite that, the field were over a second slower than Bottas until Hamilton jumped to the top with just 10 minutes left.
It was Verstappen who jumped to the top over half a second faster than Hamilton setting the benchmark at 1:18.155s. Esteban Ocon and Alex Albon off the pace from their veteran teammates languishing close to the elimination zone.
Both Ferrari’s were seriously struggling for grip with Leclerc and Vettel at the elimination zone in 10th and 11th with just 5:30s left in the session. The rain was back and creating havoc for Ferrari as the lap times were now slowing and it made the initial laps of the session the most critical which Ferrari missed out on. Stunningly Charles Leclerc was eliminated in Q2, bested by an Alpha Tauri. Leclerc said he was struggling to drive the car while Russell managed to get his Williams up to 12th. With some attrition, it could be a good chance for Williams to get some points.
Out in Q2- Kevin Magnussen, George Russell, Lance Stroll, Daniel Kvyat, Charles Leclerc
This session it was Verstappen who was at the head fo the stacked cars waiting for the green light. It was more damp on the track with the rain picking up slightly and for McLaren’s Lando Norris, he had a 3-place grid penalty to cover so qualifying was critical for him.
Max set a benchmark time at 1:21.800s revealing just how much water there was in the session and Hamilton managed a lap two and half tenths down on Max followed by Bottas.
Esteban Ocon turned the switch on and jumped ahead of his teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, with Pierre Gasly setting a terrific lap up in 3rd with just 6:30s left in the session. It was Bottas who got focused and jumped to the top with a 1:21.036s with 5 minutes left.
Hamilton answered the call by taking to top time with just 4 minutes left. Alex Albon managed to jump his teammate, Verstappen, to 3rd place with 3 minutes left. Carlos Sainz jumped his McLaren up to 5th with 2 minutes left. Gasly was having a terrific session running 4th with 1 minute left.
Max Verstappen spun on the last corner as Vettel was pitting ending his run for pole. This left Hamilton and Bottas hunting for pole and it was Lewis who took pole position with a 1:19.273s ahead of Verstappen and Sainz. Bottas, last week’s winner, was relegated to 4th quickest and Ocon answered critics by besting his teammate to take 5th. Vettel was last in 10th place.
Styrian Grand Prix Qualifying Results
|2||Max Verstappen||Red Bull/Honda||1m20.489s||1.216s|
|3||Carlos Sainz Jr.||McLaren/Renault||1m20.671s||1.398s|
|6||Alexander Albon||Red Bull/Honda||1m21.011s||1.738s|
|12||Lance Stroll||Racing Point/Mercedes||1m19.645s||0.372s|
|16||Kimi Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo/Ferrari||1m21.372s||2.099s|
|17||Sergio Perez||Racing Point/Mercedes||1m21.607s||2.334s|
|19||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo/Ferrari||1m21.831s||2.558s|
Lando Norris has a three-place grid penalty for a yellow flag infringement from FP1 while Charles Leclerc received a three-place grid penalty for impeding Daniil Kvyat in Q2.