Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes AMG F1 team stormed to his first pole position of the season in the Qualifying of the Austrian GP at Spielberg. He was just ahead of his teammate Lewis Hamilton (P2) and comfortably ahead of Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari (P3). Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen rounded off the top-five positions.
Romain Grosjean of Haas was the surprise package as he finished P6. However, Vettel was given a three-place grid penalty for impeding Carlos Sainz in Q2 and demoted to P6.
Valtteri Bottas Storms to Pole As Sebastian Vettel Incurs Penalty
Vettel Incurs Grid Penalty
Vettel qualified P3 but will start P6 after a three-place grid penalty. The German was handed the penalty for impeding Sainz on his final flying lap in Q2. Vettel had completed his flying lap and was on his cool dwn lap.
Sainz started his flying lap and encountered Vettel as he exited Turn 1. He had to take sharp evasive action and damaged his front wing as he ran over the high kerbs. The Spaniard made it to Q3 and qualified P9 eventually.
Vettel explained that he did not see Sainz in his mirrors and was not aware of him. But the stewards deemed that he should not have been on the racing line on his cool down lap and impeded Sainz. The three-place grid penalty will see Vettel start behind the two Mercedes drivers, teammate Kimi Raikkonen, Max Verstappen and Romain Grosjean.
On a track where grid position is important, the grid penalty could prove to be costly for Vettel. It gives his title rival Hamilton a big advantage as he starts on the front row of the grid.
Q1: Perez and Vandoorne eliminated early
The first qualifying session started in pleasant weather conditions, with air temperatures at 24 degrees C and track temperatures at 29 degrees C. Most cars started the session on ultrasoft tyres while the Ferrari cars surprisingly started on the mid-range supersoft tyres. Hamilton topped the session with a time of 1:04.080s.
Lance Stroll managed to scrape through to Q2, as did Charles Leclerc, even after having an off-track moment.
The surprise elimination in Q1 was of the Force India driver – Sergio Perez. Stoffel Vandoorne of McLaren was another big-ticket elimination. Other drivers in the dropzone were Brendon Hartley, Sergey Sirotkin and Marcus Ericsson.
Q2: Vettel tops ahead of both Mercedes drivers
Most leading cars started the second qualifying session on the mid-range supersoft tyres. Only Fernando Alonso tried his luck with the hardest ‘soft’ tyres. Both the Haas cars of Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen did well to qualify for Q3. Even though the Mercedes cars were very fast, Sebastian Vettel managed to top the session with a time of 1:03.544s.
The drivers eliminated at the end of Q2 were Lance Stroll, Fernando Alonso, Charles Leclerc, Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon.
Q3: Ricciardo struggles while Grosjean surprises with a strong lap
The top-ten shootout was expected to be a close affair with both the Mercedes and Ferrari teams looking evenly matched and Renault finally coming up with the “party mode” in their engines. But the Renault powered cars did not seem a match to the front-runners on track.
Hamilton and Vettel both made mistakes on their first runs, allowing Bottas and Raikkonen to draw first blood on their teammates. Hamilton tried hard on his latter runs but Bottas was on a purple patch and nailed the pole position with a lap record of 1:03.130s.
Beleaguered Romain Grosjean of Haas got a fairytale redemption of sorts by qualifying P6, ahead of a Red Bull. Daniel Ricciardo was looking out of sorts throughout the session and could only qualify P7.
Intriguing battle on the cards on Sunday
Mercedes has locked out the front row and Vettel now starts P6. Bottas will be eager to defend his win from last year, while Hamilton would try all to keep the upper hand on his teammate. Red Bull seems a bit off the pace in qualifying, but could still be in the hunt at their home race in the Red Bull Ring. Strap up for an intriguing battle on Sunday.
The Complete Qualifying Time-Sheet:
|5||33||Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer||1:04.273||1:04.001||1:03.840||18|
|7||3||Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer||1:04.723||1:04.403||1:03.996||22|
|11||31||Force India Mercedes||1:05.148||1:04.845||19|
|12||10||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda||1:05.011||1:04.874||16|
|17||11||Force India Mercedes||1:05.279||11|
|19||28||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda||1:05.366||11|
P.S. – Charles Leclerc penalised 5 grid places for a gearbox change.
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