Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team produced an impressive day as the team locked out the front row in the first qualifying session of the 2020 FIA Formula 1 World Championship.
Mercedes showcased their pace in all three free practice sessions, suggesting they were the favourites to take pole, despite a protest from Aston Martin Red Bull Racing over their Dual Axis Steering (DAS), which was later dismissed by the FIA.
The team took their first front-row lockout of the season as Valtteri Bottas qualified 0.012 seconds ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton to take pole for the Austrian Grand Prix.
Hamilton took the second spot on the grid, as was later summoned to the stewards after it was believed he had not slowed down under yellow flags during the third qualifying session. Hamilton would have the incriminating time disallowed, but it was not the fastest time he had achieved in the session, leaving him to line up on the front row of the grid.
Bottas broke the lap record at the Red Bull Ring to put himself on pole with a time of 1:02.939, the Finn was understandably excited after beating his teammate to pole position.
“This feels really good. I missed this feeling – I was shaking after qualifying.” Bottas said, “It’s something really special to be able to push the car to its limits. We’ve been preparing for this for such a long time now and you never now where you really stand.”
“But our team did such an amazing job, it’s very impressive to see. It’s still very early days, this was only the very first qualifying session of the season, but I’m so impressed by what our team has been able to achieve.“
Bottas praised the team for the work they have done to produce the W11, which seems to have the edge over the rival teams.
“A big thank you to everyone in the team, both here at the track and back home at the factories – this is a truly amazing car to drive.
“I’m very happy with the result today, but it’s tomorrow that counts, so we need to keep our heads down and keep working hard.“
Hamilton praised his teammate as he talked about Bottas’ incident, which saw him go off track into the gravel, and what he thought had happened.
“Great job by Valtteri today and a great start to the season overall for the team.” Hamilton said, “On my last lap in Q3, there was a big puff of dust when I came out in Turn 4 and at first, I didn’t know where the car was that had gotten off the track. “
“But then I managed to see that Valtteri was just about to come back on the track and so fortunately it didn’t really affect my lap; in the end, he kept his position and so did I.”
The six-time World Champion also praised Mercedes and the car they have produced as Hamilton looks to equal Micheal Schumacher in seven world titles and also ninety-one Grand Prix wins this season.
“This team shows year on year of what it is capable of; we continue to set new standards. I think it’s because we’re open-minded, we’re current with the times.
“We’re always learning from each other and we’re always pushing the boundaries together. We’re united as a team, there aren’t really any politics within this group, and we push together.
“I think that’s why we’ve come back strong again this year. Now we need to show that strength again tomorrow in the race.“
Mercedes will need “strong reliability” to secure a race win at the Red Bull Ring
Toto Wolff, Mercedes Team Principal, pointed out how it was important for the team to produce a good result which could be hard with Max Verstappen’s tyre strategy.
“I’m extremely happy with this front-row lockout for the first race of the season. The team and the car – both Power Unit and chassis – worked really well today.
“Now it’s about bringing that result home tomorrow which will be very challenging. It may not look that difficult based on today’s single lap results, but Verstappen’s offset tyre strategy was clever as he will be able to go much longer on the Medium tyres in the race.“
Wolff talked about reliability, which has been a problem for Mercedes at the Red Bull Ring in the past.
“We considered the offset strategy as well; but there’s a risk to lose time at the start.” Wolff Explained, “We think a one-stop strategy can work here nonetheless, so then the harder tyre isn’t necessarily an advantage.”
“Given that Verstappen was lacking a little bit of single lap pace, going out in Q2 on the Mediums was the right thing to do. The temperatures are forecasted to be much higher tomorrow which will add to the challenge.
“We hope for strong reliability tomorrow and that our pace is good enough to be in front. I’m looking forward to the fight.”
Andrew Shovlin, Mercedes’ Chief Race Engineer spoke of how Bottas had an issue with his car prior to qualifying.
“A really great result for the whole Mercedes team and it’s very satisfying to see that the chassis and Power Unit are working so well on a track that has caused us some headaches in the past.
“The day hasn’t been completely straightforward; we had a pretty good FP3 session but had to pull Valtteri’s car apart before qualifying to replace an electrical loom in the gearbox.
“It’s always a bit unsettling when the car is in pieces running up to qualifying, but the mechanics did a great job preparing it and we were ready to run at the start.“
Shovlin has confidence in the team ahead of the race but is cautious due to the weather forecast for race day.
“It’s hard to find a decent gap in the first session here in Austria, as there are twenty cars all trying to do the same on a very short lap. The second and third sessions were a bit easier to manage and the pace in the final session was good.
“This is normally a circuit that compresses the field so it’s great to start from the front. It’s going to be an interesting race tomorrow.“
“The track and ambient temperatures are much higher than on Friday which will make life harder for the tyres. We’ve also got Max starting on the Medium compounds which will go a bit further than our Softs, but in terms of pace, we’ve not seen much difference between the tyres.“