Valtteri Bottas secured his first pole position of the season with an impressive performance in qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix, beating Lewis Hamilton by just 0.019s.
At the scene of another Bottas pole position last year, the Finn produced an excellent first lap in Q3 to lead the field by almost half a second as teammate Hamilton made an error at Turn 3. On the second attempts, Bottas lowered the benchmark to a 1m03.130s, with Hamilton’s final lap falling just short with a 1m03.149s.
Sebastian Vettel originally secured third on the grid but was later demoted to sixth for impeding Carlos Sainz — who ended up ninth — and was over a quarter of a second off the pace after also making a mistake on his first Q3 lap.
As a result of Vettel’s penalty, Kimi Raikkonen is promoted to third ahead of Max Verstappen and the impressive Romain Grosjean. The Haas driver produced an excellent performance to split the two Red Bulls and then gain a further place due to Vettel’s penalty.
But Red Bull’s decision not to alternate which driver received a tow angered Daniel Ricciardo and led to Verstappen being requested to overtake his teammate at one stage, to which the Dutchman replied: “No, it’s discipline.”
Ricciardo ended up seventh as a result ahead of Kevin Magnussen, with Sainz and Nico Hulkenberg rounding out the top ten.
The second part of qualifying proved crucial, however, with Vettel blocking Sainz on the exit of Turn 1, apparently oblivious to the Renault approaching on a flying lap. While the Ferrari had been quickest in Q2, the incident ultimately scuppered any hopes of pole position with a penalty announced more than two hours after the end of qualifying.
After a brief scare for Ricciardo during the second part of qualifying — ending up eighth quickest behind the two Haas drivers — there were no major shocks as Esteban Ocon was the unlucky driver to drop out in 11th ahead of Pierre Gasly’s Toro Rosso. The gap to the top ten was around 0.2s, with Charles Leclerc ending up 13th but set to start 18th due to a gearbox penalty after trouble in final practice.
That will promote both Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll, with the McLaren driver running wide at Turn 9 and damaging his front wing on his final attempt in Q2.
In a display of how competitive the midfield is on such a short lap, there were five different teams who lost a driver each in the opening part of qualifying. An error by Leclerc came just after Stroll’s improvement and hampered a number of drivers as yellow flags came out in the middle sector, with the Sauber crawling through the gravel at Turn 4.
That left Stoffel Vandoorne unable to complete a lap in response to Stroll, with Sergio Perez dropping out in 17th after encountering traffic in the final sector on his last lap. Sergey Sirotkin, Brendon Hartley and Marcus Ericsson were the other drivers to drop out, with the whole field covered by just 1.4s in Q1.