After Mercedes managed a 1-2 in both practice sessions on Friday, they dd the same in qualifying but with Valtteri Bottas on pole rather than championship leader Lewis Hamilton. It was a mixed day for Sebastian Vettel
Sebastian Vettel had a session to remember as he set a track record in final practice for the Austrian Grand Prix. His time was 0.029 seconds ahead of Hamilton with his team-mate Valtteri Bottas 0.134 behind in third place.
Fourth fastest was Kimi Raikkonen, in the other Ferrari but it wasn’t such a good session for Red Bull. They were fifth and sixth with Verstappen ahead of Ricciardo but 0.7 seconds and 0.8 seconds off the pace. There were worries for Verstappen as firstly he went through the gravel after going wide in Turn Four and then the engine of his Red Bull suddenly switched off causing him to end his session eight minute early and give his team just a couple of hours to get it working again in time for qualifying.
Haas filled seventh and eighth spots with Romain Grosjean ahead of Kevin Magnusson. Grosjean had earlier in the session nearly run over a mechanic who’d stepped out of the Toro Rosso box. The top ten was completed by the Renault of Carlos Sainz Jr and Charles Leclerc in his Sauber. However, Leclerc’s car had engine problems and that led to a five-place grid penalty.
Lewis Hamilton will have to wait a little bit longer for his 50th pole in a Mercedes. He finished second in qualifying behind his team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who won this race last year, with just 0.019 seconds between them. It could have been another pole for Hamilton but he made a mistake in his first run in final qualifying when going wide at Turn Three causing him to lose speed down the next straight.
After his track record earlier in the day, Vettel was only third fastest. However, his day got worse when he was penalised for blocking Renault’s Carlos Sainz and will start sixth on the grid.
Kimi Raikkonen finished in fourth followed by the Red Bull of Verstappen whose car was thankfully ok for qualifying. Romain Grosjean will start sixth and the other Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo in seventh.
All didn’t seem well between the two Red Bull drivers after an incident in Q3. Ricciardo appeared to slow his car down to let his team-mate to by, but then Verstappen refused to do so. Cue a Ricciardo rant over the radio saying: “There is no point me running. I’m just punching a hole.” Later, Verstappen got vocal as he ran behind Ricciardo and told his engineer: “What is going on?” When told to just overtake him, he replied: “No. Discipline.”
Kevin Magnusson was eighth with the two Renault’s of Sainz and Hulkenberg ninth and tenth. Charles Leclerc was 13th fastest but drops five places due to the earlier unauthorized gearbox change.
Fernando Alonso could only manage a 14th place finish after going wide at both of the final two corners and damaging the front wing of his McLaren. His team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne could only finish 16th and nearly 0.3 seconds slower than Alonso.
Williams have had a terrible season but they managed something in Austria that they haven’t all year. Lance Stroll made it into Q2 and eventually qualified 15th and showed obvious delight when finding out how fast he had gone.
Speaking after qualifying, Lewis Hamilton congratulated Bottas on a “stunning lap.” Bottas said that the weekend had seen Mercedes make “good progress with the set-up.”
With their new upgrades, Mercedes will be hoping for a 1-2 in Austria to solidify their position at the top of the drivers and constructors’ championships. Sebastian Vettel has shown what his Ferrari can do though and he’ll be chasing hard though the grid penalty won’t help. Just how the start goes could be vital here. I’ll be back with more blogs next weekend, till then enjoy your racing.