F1 2020: Bottas survives off-track scare to seize Austrian GP pole

    Published On Jul 04, 2020 09:47:00 PM

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    Mercedes locks out the front row for the 2020 F1 season opener, with Bottas on pole ahead of Hamilton.

    • Hamilton misses out by 0.012 seconds, locks out front row for Mercedes
    • Ferrari struggle for pace

    Valtteri Bottas survived a wild off track moment to secure pole position in qualifying for the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix ahead of team mate Lewis Hamilton, who completed a dominant front row lockout for Mercedes.

    The Finnish driver lapped the 4.3-kilometre long Red Bull Ring track in 1min 02.939 secs, a new track record, before flying off the circuit in the session’s dying seconds, squandering what would have been an even faster final attempt. But it was still good enough to beat Hamilton, the only other man who could have beaten him on an imperious afternoon for Mercedes, by a mere 0.012 seconds.

    Max Verstappen, (winner in Austria the last two years) who will start on a more durable tyre than his Mercedes rivals, was third for Red Bull but over 0.538 seconds adrift.

    Saturday’s effort netted Bottas his 12th career pole and third in Spielberg. The track, somewhat talismanic for the Finn, is also where he took the first pole of his Formula 1 career.

    “I’ve missed these feelings, the qualifying shakes, something special when you push the car to the limit,” said Bottas, who like his rivals last took part in a qualifying session at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last December after the COVID-19 pandemic forced a delay to the start of the 2020 season.

    “We’ve been preparing for this for a long time. Our team… amazing job, we seem to be in our own league,” added Bottas, mask on, in a socially-distanced interview on the grid.

    Hamilton misses out

    Hamilton, gunning for a record-equalling seventh title this season, had looked favourite for pole in his new black-liveried Mercedes sporting the message ‘End Racism’ in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

    The Briton, who has won just once at the Red Bull Ring and also scored his last retirement at the track back in 2018, had led a practice clean sweep but was unable to take advantage of Bottas’ off-track moment to overhaul the Finn.

    “It’s a great job by Valtteri, this is a great start to the season and I’m happy to be here,” said the 35-year-old who was running right behind his Bottas when he went off.

    “I came out of Turn 4 and there was a big puff of dust. I didn’t know where the car was or anything like that. I managed to see that Valtteri was just about to come back on the track and fortunately it didn’t really affect the lap and he kept his position.”

    Ferrari struggle

    Even as Mercedes stamped their authority on the field, old rivals Ferrari struggled.

    Charles Leclerc, who started from pole in Austria last year, was only seventh. Team-mate Sebastian Vettel, set to leave the team at the end of the year, failed to even make it through to the final phase of qualifying and will start 11th.

    The Italian team had expected to be on the back foot after discovering problems with their aerodynamic concept in testing. The latest updates addressing the problem are not due until the third race of the season in Hungary

    “I was not so happy with the car… but we’ll see,” said the German four-time champion who celebrated his 33rd birthday on Friday.

    “Tomorrow is a different picture. I think in race trim we are always better and I think we’ll be up there to make up some ground and score some good points.”

    McLaren best of the rest

    Lando Norris was an impressive fourth for McLaren ahead of Verstappen’s Red Bull team mate Alexander Albon. Sergio Perez was sixth for Racing Point, a strong showing for a car dubbed the ‘Pink Mercedes’ for its resemblance to last the car the champions fielded last year.

    Carlos Sainz, who will replace Vettel at Ferrari next year, was eighth. Lance Stroll was ninth for Racing Point while Daniel Ricciardo, taking Sainz’ place at McLaren next season, rounded out the top ten.

    The drivers last competed in a race at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in December. Still there was no rustiness and no major incidents.

    New normal

    Formula 1 did embrace a new normal, however, Mercedes’ front row lockout gave the timesheets a familiar feel.

    There were no crowds at the Red Bull Ring, the first time a race has been held behind closed doors. Teams were also all operating in bubbles with face masks mandatory at the track and strict social distancing rules in force.

    Media presence was also limited to a handful of select journalists, with all interviews conducted virtually and no journalists allowed into the paddock.

    Austrian GP qualifying results

    POS

    DRIVER

    CAR

    GAP

    1

    Valtteri Bottas

    Mercedes

    1m02.939s

    2

    Lewis Hamilton

    Mercedes

    0.012s

    3

    Max Verstappen

    Red Bull/Honda

    0.538s

    4

    Lando Norris

    McLaren/Renault

    0.687s

    5

    Alexander Albon

    Red Bull/Honda

    0.929s

    6

    Sergio Perez

    Racing Point/Mercedes

    0.929s

    7

    Charles Leclerc

    Ferrari

    0.984s

    8

    Carlos Sainz Jr.

    McLaren/Renault

    1.032s

    9

    Lance Stroll

    Racing Point/Mercedes

    1.090s

    10

    Daniel Ricciardo

    Renault

    1.300s

    11

    Sebastian Vettel

    Ferrari

    1.267s

    12

    Pierre Gasly

    AlphaTauri/Honda

    1.366s

    13

    Daniil Kvyat

    AlphaTauri/Honda

    1.492s

    14

    Esteban Ocon

    Renault

    1.704s

    15

    Romain Grosjean

    Haas/Ferrari

    1.752s

    16

    Kevin Magnussen

    Haas/Ferrari

    2.225s

    17

    George Russell

    Williams/Mercedes

    2.228s

    18

    Antonio Giovinazzi

    Alfa Romeo/Ferrari

    2.236s

    19

    Kimi Raikkonen

    Alfa Romeo/Ferrari

    2.285s

    20

    Nicholas Latifi

    Williams/Mercedes

    2.818s

    Abhishek Takle

    Also see:

    FMSCI clarifies Indian 2020 racing season won’t be cancelled

    How Williams plans to regain F1 competitiveness

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