Bottas on Pole as Hamilton Hit with Penalty for Austrian Grand Prix
Valtteri Bottas will start on pole at the Austrian Grand Prix ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen.
Lewis Hamilton had qualified in third in an error riddled Q3 but a five-place penalty for a change of gear box will see him take eighth on the grid.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo out-qualified team-mate Max Verstappen for the first time in five races to start, while Romain Grosjean will begin in 6th ahead of both Force India’s.
Sloppy Qualifying for Hamilton
Bottas deservedly earned his second pole with a clean performance over the short but sometimes treacherous Red Bull Ring littered with high curves and ‘baguette’ speed bumps.
It was these that caught-out Vettel and Hamilton in qualifying and caused concerns among much of the pit lane during the practice sessions. Hamilton, quickest in the earlier parts of qualifying, had a poor first hot run in Q3 and threw away any chance of starting from sixth when his Mercedes smacked into the curb on Turn 1 and lost speed along the following straight.
A disappointed Hamilton had no explanation for a poor qualifying.
“No real issues. Car was good. Valtteri did a fantastic job. And I just didn’t hook it up in Q3. Q1 and Q2 was good but Q3 was so-so.”
“I hoped to be higher up but it wasn’t to be. But I plan to be on the podium and make it a one-two with Valtteri.”
Hamilton will be running an opposite strategy to most of the field having qualifying on super-soft tires. It means the Englishman will likely run a longer first stint on the slower but more durable tires and switch towards the end of the race to the quicker ultra-soft tires.
Title rival Vettel could only manage second place finishing 0.042 seconds behind Bottas, labelling the end of Q3 an “an anti-climax” when Romain Grosjean’s Haas stopped with engine problems at the Turn 3 hairpin and Max Verstappen spun at Turn 8 over the gravel.
Vettel said: “Q3 was pretty good. I was very happy with the lap.”
“It will be a long race and many things can happen. For sure it will be tough, but let’s see what we can do.”
That ‘Special Feeling’
But Bottas, who was described as doing a “perfect job” by team boss Toto Wolff, will aim to capitalize on his pole start.
“It’s only the second pole for me and hopefully there’s more to come.”
“The car feels great, especially on high fuel, and I’m ready to win. That’s the only target. It’s been too long since Russia.”
Asked whether he will back-up Vettel so that Hamilton could catch-up, Bottas said it made no sense and would jeopardize his own race.
“If you start playing games like that here it’s quite tricky,” he said.
“If the car behind gets within the DRS (overtaking aid) zones and gets a good slipstream, it only needs one mistake and you can lose the win. So not planning on that at the moment.”
Mixed results for McLaren and Williams
Williams had a disastrous qualifying with Massa and Stroll out in Q1 and starting 17th and 18th.
The Williams looked uncontrollable with both under-steer and over-steer, giving the drivers little chance of making in-roads into qualifying.
Meanwhile, McLaren will be heartened by a strong session despite issues with their new engine unit.
McLaren had installed their ‘spec 3’ unit for practice and showed good pace on Friday. However, the pit crew found a problem with Alonso’s MGU-H after FP2 and they had to resort back to the previous ‘spec 2’ unit. Despite this, Alonso qualified 12th in front of Vandoorne at a track notorious for unexpected results.