Lewis Hamilton pulled of one of his mega wet weather laps to secure pole position in stormy conditions for the Styrian Grand Prix. The session was heavily interrupted by storms which caused the cancellation of practice and some of the support races.
Hamilton was over a second ahead of Red Bulls Max Verstappen on the extreme wet tyres when the final part of qualifying got underway, setting his fastest time on his first run in Q3 going 1.2 seconds faster than the dutchman taking his first pole of the season.
In the wettest conditions seen in the qualifying session for some time, Hamilton was fastest in all three sessions, underlining the wet-weather skills he has shown throughout his career.
Verstappen appeared to be challenging the six-times champion before spinning his Red Bull at the Red Bull Moblie corner on his final lap, that wouldn’t have made much difference as Hamilton was already going significantly faster on his own lap behind. He was clearly giving it everything to try and beat Hamilton.
Although the Red Bull driver managed to avoid a full 360 his chances of pole were dashed and Hamilton in any case improved his best Q3 time to a 19.2 so end up 1.216s clear.
Hamilton said, “Honestly I am happy. What a tricky day, the weather is incredibly difficult. I had a big aquaplane at one point – I definitely had my heart in my mouth – but I was able to improve and put in a nice, clean lap. I love days like this. Racing like this feels like it used to.”
Carlos Sainz continued McLaren’s strong start to the season claiming third for the team for second week in a row. He was three hundredths faster than the second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas.
He added, “”Very happy to put in P3 for the first time in my career. It feels amazing especially that qualifying was one of the toughest I have done. There was so much aquaplaning it was crazy.”
Esteban Ocon was fifth ahead of Lando Norris, although the takes a three place grid penalty for overtaking under yellow flags in FP1. Alex Albon was seventh ahead of the sister teams Pierre Gasly with Daniel Ricciardo ninth.
Despite the conditions Ferrari still struggled to turn around there difficult start to 2020, Sebastian Vettel was the only Ferrari powered car in Q3 taking tenth over two seconds off the pace of Hamilton. Teammate Charles Leclerc missed out on Q3.
The Monacan had indicated he wanted to stay out on his initial Q2 wets when it came to putting a fresh set on for the final runs, but when he did come in the rain intensified and few drivers managed to improve their times late on. But his best effort was over a second off the place, he will start in the same position that his teammate did last week.
Williams once again benefited from the conditions as well as there step forwards over the winter, George Russell taking the teams best qualifying in recent years with twelfth fastest. While his nearest rivals Lance Stroll, Daniil Kvyat and Kevin Magnussen had there attempts taken away as the rain intensified.
The Racing Point look as if he could have improved on his final lap following a strong first run, but he went wide at the final corner costing himself time leaving him thirteenth.
Antonio Giovinazzi was the only casualty despite the conditions, the Alfa Romeo driver brought Q1 to an early conclusion after spinning across the kerbs at the exit of penultimate corner, spearing off into the barriers at the final turn.
He was able to drive clear by dropped debris on the pit straight and eventually stopped on the approach to Remus, when the red flags were shown.
That left several drivers unable to improve on their final runs in Q1, Kimi Raikkonen and Sergio Perez included. Nicolas Latifi went off at Turn Six, going across the gravel trap and then was unable to improve on his new wets as the red flags came out as he approached the final corners and he will start eighteenth as a result, ahead of Giovinazzi.
Romain Grosjean did not set a time in Q1 after going off at Turn 4 on his out-lap – just in front of Vettel’s opening lap in the segment – and he did reappear after returning to the pits after that incident.