For the first time in 2014, the Mercedes-AMG Petronas team will not start a grand prix from pole position, having seen the Williams team of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas lock out the front row. Nico Rosberg is the best placed Mercedes driver in third, but team-mate and championship rival Lewis Hamilton is down in ninth after suffering a dreadful final part of qualifying in Austria.
Despite qualifying third at the Red Bull Ring, Rosberg was disappointed after losing the opportunity to improve his time after his team-mates spin at turn 2. He is feeling confident heading into the race, believing his race pace will be better than what was seen in qualifying.
“That was not a great qualifying for us,” admitted Rosberg. “I didn’t get the second quick lap in Q3 when Lewis spun in front of me at Turn 2 and I had to slow down for the yellow flags.
“For sure, from our point of view it makes life harder that the Williams are starting in front of us and I must say well done to them – they have been quick all weekend and took their opportunity today. But I am still feeling confident for tomorrow. We have worked hard to find the best set-up for the race – my balance wasn’t perfect in qualifying, with a bit too much understeer, but I hope it will settle down tomorrow. This track has a few good opportunities for overtaking and I think it’s going to be a very interesting race.”
Team-mate Hamilton endured a dreadful third part of qualifying. The Britons first flying lap was ruined when he ran too far off the track at turn eight, and then he spun on his second lap meaning he will have to start from ninth on the grid. He acknowledges the chance of a win tomorrow has diminished, but he will not give up without a fight.
“I just didn’t finish a lap in Q3 today – sometimes you get it all together, sometimes you don’t and today I didn’t get the job done,” said a dejected Hamilton. “The feeling in the car has been good all weekend and I think we had the pace. My first lap in Q3 was looking good before I went wide in the second-to-last corner, and I think that lap would probably have done it. Then on the second run, I hit the brakes into Turn 2 and just locked the rears; I still need to look at the data to see exactly what happened.
“It’s a long race and I need to try and recover as much as I can from this loss. The shot for the win will be very hard so I guess it’s mainly a case of damage limitation; I will be doing all I can to put myself in a strong position and to get good points for the team. Congratulations to Williams as well; I’m very happy for Felipe and his pole position.”
Executive Director of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Toto Wolff gave praise to the Williams team, whom he previously worked for before taking the Mercedes job. He is still hopeful his current employers will get a strong result during the race.
“First of all, congratulations to Williams on today’s result with the front row lockout – they really deserve it,” said Wolff. “Today we simply didn’t get the job done well enough. Things got off to a messy start with a tricky third practice session and it was clear that the option tyre would be hard to switch on for the timed lap.
“Lewis’ first try in Q3 would probably have been good enough for pole without a mistake in the final sector, which meant his time was cancelled, then he had the spin on the second run. Nico wasn’t happy with the car balance through the session, complaining of too much understeer, then he had to slow for the yellow flags on his last flying lap.
“But there’s no point talking about what might have been; what we have is P3 and P9 on the grid. It will be a long, tough race tomorrow; we need to get every detail right if we want to recover and score a strong result.”