Valtteri Bottas has beaten his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton by .01 of a second to take back to back pole position for this weekends Austrian Grand Prix. It was a very close battle between the top three teams with less than a second covering the top six.
Bottas has always performed well in Austria, and this weekend the Finn has been an even match for his four-time champion teammate Hamilton. Mercedes have looked to have the slight edge over Ferrari, Sebastian Vettel was third three tenths off Bottas with his teammate Kimi Raikkonen fourth a further two tenths behind.
The Red Bull Ring has been a Mercedes stronghold since it returned to the calendar in 2014, and they should have a great chance of dominance again as five races since 1997 have been won from pole. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was fourth and Daniel Ricciardo sixth.
Bottas said “The whole weekend we have been making good progress with the set-up. The car felt so good and in the last run, I knew there was 0.1secs I could improve on the first run and I managed to find it. Apparently, I needed it.”
Hamilton added “Not too bad. I am happy with it. Valtteri did a stunning lap on the first run and I did a little mistake and that kind of ended the run. This is a great result for the team and Valtteri deserved it today.”
Red Bull was unable to improve on their second run on Ultrasofts and tried three timed laps to try to get close to the front. They also suffered communication errors, as the Australian was frustrated by the teams decision to use him to tow his teammate Verstappen.
Ricciardo was then heard on the radio saying: “There is no point me running. I’m just punching a hole.” It was an apparent reference to the proximity between the two cars on track and the Australian being close enough to give Verstappen a slipstream, which would be an advantage.
Later, Verstappen, again running behind Ricciardo at the start of their second runs, was heard saying on the radio: “What is going on?” He was told by his engineer Gianpiero Lambiese: “Just overtake him, mate.”
Verstappen replied: “No. Discipline.”
It was a good session for Haas’s Romain Grosjean, the under pressure Frenchman has been in strong form all weekend, he managed to pip Ricciardo by a tenth of a second.
Grosjean’s teammate Kevin Magnussen, was a tenth off and the team who has been leading the midfield this weekend were half a second ahead of the Renaults of Carlos Sainz and Nico Hulkenberg, who rounded out the top ten.
Esteban Ocon missed out on a place in Q2 by two-tenths of a second following the improvements by Hulkenberg, after he failed to improve on his last attempt in Q2. Also failing to improve was Pierre Gasly, who narrowly out qualified Charles Leclerc.
The Monacan was three-thousandths of a second off Gasly, however, a gearbox change due to a failure in FP3, means the Sauber driver drops back to eighteenth. It was a marginally better session for McLaren and Williams, Fernando Alonso fourteenth, wit Lance Stroll getting into Q2 for the first time in two months.
Stoffel Vandoorne was forced to back off on his final run in Q1, after Leclerc made a mistake and ran wide at Rauch causing a yellow flag. That meant Sergio Perez and Sergey Sirotkin just missed out on Q2, as did Brendon Hartley who was nineteenth and just nine thousandths off Q2.
Saubers Marcus Ericsson was a tenth off Hartley, he was also forced to abandon his last run after a personal best in the first sector.