After a five second time penalty last week demoted Lewis Hamilton to fourth place in the Austrian GP, the defending Formula 1 World Champion responded by scoring pole in a wet and wild Styrian GP qualifying.
Continuing the hot streak for Mercedes, Hamilton was locked in a fierce back and forth battle with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. Both drivers traded the top spot before Hamilton set a monstrous lap in the wet conditions, logging a time of 1 minute 19.702 seconds with less than a minute to go.
As Verstappen began his final flying lap he appeared to be in good shape. Going purple in sectors one and two, the Dutchman seemed to have the pole locked down. That is, until the wet conditions finally caught up to Verstappen, sending him spinning off track in the final curve. Fortunately for Verstappen, his car didn’t have major damage.
With a time of 1 minute 20.489 seconds, Verstappen will start P2 looking to avenge his Lap 21 exit last week and challenge Hamilton for the win.
For Hamilton and the Silver Arrows, this pole would mark Hamilton 89th of career and third overall at the Red Bull Ring.
After his teammate Lando Norris scored a heartwarming podium one week ago, McLaren’s Carlos Sainz will aim to replicate that. The Spaniard will start P3 alongside the other Mercedes, Points leader Valtteri Bottas.
Esteban Ocon showed why both himself and Renault are to be taken seriously this season. The Frenchman would set a bullet of a lap right as Q3 would down, he will roll off the grid P5 alongside Alexander Albon who will also be looking for some redemption this week.
Lando Norris has had a week to forget. After suffering chest pains all week long, he was hit with a 3 place grid penalty for an infraction committed in FP1 yesterday. Despite having the 6th quickest time, Norris would be demoted to P9.
For Williams F1, it was a celebration in the pits as George Russell would have a career day starting a fantastic P12.
Both Racing Point cars would shocking struggle with Stroll starting P13 and Perez starting P17 after missing Q2.
The only big incident was that of Antonio Giovinazzi, who crashed midway through Q1.
Although the rain would claim the fastest time in Q3, washing out the session, the drivers were still able to get in two seasons before Qualifying.
For once in practice the top spots were not claimed by a Mercedes. FP1 was topped by Sergio Perez of Racing Point, while FP2 and the fastest overall lap would go to Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
Racing Point would look incredibly strong in FP2 with Perez and Stroll going P3 and P4, only three tenths off each other. However, once the rain came the pace fell dramatically, which will definitely cause some nerves to rise in the Racing Point camp come Sunday.
Max Verstappen and the rest of Red Bull Racing would be back with a vengeance after the attrition battled in the Austrian GP. Verstappen would top the charts in FP2 alongside a runner-up in FP1, while Albon would go 6th and 7th respectively.
FP1 would also see the returns of Alfa Romeo driver Robert Kubica and Williams’ brand new test driver Jack Aitken. However, both would be at the bottom of the time charts.
Ferrari continued their disappointing start to the season. Both drivers would struggle to find a quick pace, with Vettel being the overall slowest of the two.
Both Kevin Magnussen and Ricciardo also find trouble. Magnussen crashing in FP1 and Ricciardo crashing in FP2. Those wrecks were sickening for the pair, who both DNF’d the season opener with mechanical troubles.
Odds & Sods
Lando Norris has been suffering moderate to severe chest pains all week long, and especially during FP1. The pain was described by Norris as making him “afraid to brake.” Fortunately, the pains seemed to dissipate after a good night’s sleep.
However, that wouldn’t be the end of Norris’ problems. He was also hit with a three place grid penalty for passing both Sergio Perez and Pierre Gasly under yellow in FP1. To make matters even worse, two penalty points were issued to Norris as well.
Red Bull Racing seems to have finally hit their groove with Max Verstappen. After Red Bull announced they are developing their own version fo the DAS system, the Red Bull racing cars appear to be the closest in competition when compared the Mercs.
As Red Bull solely takes their places as the second best team on the grid, Team Boss Christian Horner might hold some secrets of what’s yet to come for the team.
Racing Point dominated in the dry, but as soon as the wet conditions came, the team fell drastically. While Racing Point appeared to have made some dramatic improvements over the extended off season, it finally found its weak link.
Both Perez and Stroll struggled in the wet conditions during qualifying. Stroll got the better starting position as Perez was caught out by a red flag which ruined his final and possibly fastest lap time. The team will have a large and lofty mountain to surpass if they want to grab a podium.
With potential rain in the forecast, look for the inaugural Styrian GP to produce some of F1’s most exciting racing of the season.