Lewis Hamilton dominated the Styrian Grand Prix qualifying session on Saturday afternoon, taking pole position by an astonishing 1.2 seconds ahead of Max Verstappen, in treacherous conditions.
McLaren F1 Team’s Carlos Sainz Jr. completed the top three marking his best ever qualifying position, with Hamilton’s team-mate and last weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix winner Valterri Bottas claiming fourth on the grid.
The Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula 1 Team driver snatched pole from Aston Martin Red Bull Racing’s Verstappen in the closing lap of Q3 after the Dutchman scuppered any chances of retaking pole with a costly error on the final turn, sending his RB13 into a half spin.
Hamilton had already comfortably taken pole position but put in an absolute blinder of a lap following Verstappen’s error posting a lap time of 1:19.273.
There were fears around the paddock that the qualifying session may be cancelled due to the changes in the weather conditions at the Red Bull Ring. Free Practice 3 had already been cancelled and the earlier FIA Formula 3 race red flagged and prematurely ended, due to the heavy rain. After a forty-five-minute delay, the session finally began.
With weather conditions fluctuating by the minute, it was key for the drivers to start setting fast laps early in Q1, as it could soon turn unpredictable. This was proven by a queue forming at the end of the pitlane minutes before the green light was iluminated, with Sebastian Vettel at the front of the line.
Haas F1 Team driver Romain Grojean was the only driver not to set a time in the whole qualifying session, retiring to the garage after the outlap. The Frenchman went wide and through the gravel at the end of the back straight, and he returned to the pit lane and despite work being done on the rear of the car, he did not return to the track.
The eighteen-minute session (Q1) saw one of the most entertaining qualifying sessions to date. Drivers were consistently posting faster and faster times and no one was safe from elimination. The grid had three sets of wet tyres at their disposal with drivers choosing to pit with around ten minutes to go for fresh tyres in hopes of improving their times, taking them away from the drop zone.
In spite of posting some of the earliest fastest times in the session both the Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN’s of Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi ended their qualifying campaign in Q1. Giovinazzi spun on the final corner, hitting the armco and sustaining damage. Sergio Pérez, Grojean and Williams Racing’s Nicholas Latifi also didn’t make it into Q2.
George Russell did make it into Q2, a landmark moment for Williams, with the young Brit being the first driver to take the team into the second round of qualifying since the Brazilian Grand Prix of 2018. Russell went onto post the twelfth fastest time of Q2, however he was less than a tenth from making it into Q3.
The fastest times of qualifying were set in Q2 as the rain eased and the track started to dry in spots. It was a crucial session for Scuderia Ferrari with both Vettel and Charles Leclerc teetering on the edge of elimination throughout the session. The team had brought forward their updates to the Styrian Grand Prix, after they were set to make the changes ahead of the third race in Hungary.
Vettel scraped into Q3 in tenth place with Leclerc ending the session in eleventh, It was the second week in a row that a Ferrari hasn’t made it out of Q2, with Leclerc taking the turn this week. BWT Racing Point’s Lance Stroll was only a tenth of a second off making it into Q1 himself, ending the session in thirteenth. Had he have succeeded, both the Ferrari’s would have been left to fight it out from eleventh and twelfth on the grid.
The other drivers knocked out of Q2 were the AlphaTauri of Daniil Kvyat and the second Haas of Kevin Magnussen.
The rain hampered the third session, with visibility becoming increasingly poor and the track surface remaining slippery and devoid of grip. There were a few surprises to final classification with Sainz edging out Bottas to take third for his best career grid position, while Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly both starred, qualifying in fifth and eighth respectively.
McLaren’s Lando Norris qualified in sixth however his three place grid penalty from disobeying a yellow flag in practice, means he will start in ninth ahead of Vettel in tenth. His penalty will promote Alexander Albon to sixth, Gasly to seventh and Daniel Ricciardo to eighth.
But no one had an answer for Hamilton, who will start from pole position for the eighty-ninth time in his career. Verstappen tried, but ultimately was forced into an error, although he will be confident with his race pace on Sunday should conditions be dry.
2020 Styrian Grand Prix Qualifying Results:
|2||33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing Honda||1:18.297||1:17.938||1:20.489||34|
|3||55||Carlos Sainz||McLaren Renault||1:18.590||1:18.836||1:20.671||33|
|6||4||Lando Norris||McLaren Renault||1:18.504||1:18.448||1:20.925||34|
|7||23||Alexander Albon||Red Bull Racing Honda||1:20.882||1:19.014||1:21.011||31|
|8||10||Pierre Gasly||AlphaTauri Honda||1:20.192||1:18.744||1:21.028||33|
|12||63||George Russell||Williams Mercedes||1:20.382||1:19.636||22|
|13||18||Lance Stroll||Racing Point BWT Mercedes||1:19.697||1:19.645||23|
|14||26||Daniil Kvyat||AlphaTauri Honda||1:19.824||1:19.717||24|
|15||20||Kevin Magnussen||Haas Ferrari||1:21.140||1:20.211||22|
|16||7||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari||1:21.372||12|
|17||11||Sergio Perez||Racing Point BWT Mercedes||1:21.607||12|
|18||6||Nicholas Latifi||Williams Mercedes||1:21.759||12|
|19||99||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari||1:21.831||12|
|20||8||Romain Grosjean||Haas Ferrari||DNS||1|