Valtteri Bottas has claimed pole at the Austrian Grand Prix in a foreboding display of Mercedes dominance, while Sebastian Vettel failed to qualify for the top 10 in a painful afternoon for Ferrari.
Bottas pipped teammate Lewis Hamilton with his first lap — a time of 1m02.939s, a new track record — but the Finn appeared set to throw away his advantage when he ran wide on the exit of Turn 4, sliding through the gravel and spinning clumsily on the grass.
However, Hamilton — having logged a slow first sector — failed to capitalize despite setting personal best splits for the balance of the lap, ultimately falling short by 0.012s.
“It feels really good. I’ve missed this feeling, the after-qualifying shakes!” Bottas said of his 12th career pole. “It’s a truly amazing car to drive.
“Obviously a good result today, but tomorrow’s what matters.”
Max Verstappen proved Mercedes’s closest challenger, but the leading Red Bull Racing driver was a whopping 0.538s off the pace. The Dutchman, however, will start the race on the medium tire as opposed to the soft after using it to progress through Q2, and he hoped this could bring the team closer to the German marque in the race.
“Clearly Mercedes today was on a different level, unfortunately, but let’s see what we can do tomorrow,” he said. “It’ll be warmer tomorrow — that could play to our advantage. I’m looking forward to it — we have nothing to lose.”
Lando Norris turned in a career-best fourth, just 0.15s shy of Verstappen, in a strong afternoon for McLaren, beating Alex Albon in the second Red Bull Racing car on the way. Albon qualified sixth ahead of Racing Point’s Sergio Perez despite the pair setting identical times, the Thai driver snatching the position by virtue of logging his lap first.
Charles Leclerc failed to figure in the fight, qualifying a lowly seventh and almost an entire second off the pace. The Monegasque only just slipped through to the top 10 in the first place, having edged teammate Sebastian Vettel for the final berth and confining the German to the midfield in P11.
“Of course it’s a surprise — we thought that we had a little bit more in hand,” Vettel told TV broadcasters. “I was not so happy with the car — quite a bit more oversteer on entry than I would like — but we’ll see.
“I think tomorrow is a different picture. It’s a long race. I think in race trim we are always better, and I think we’ll be there to make up some ground and score some good points.”
Carlos Sainz slotted in behind Leclerc to take eighth on the grid ahead of Lance Stroll in the second Racing Point, while Daniel Ricciardo rounded out the top 10 for Renault.
Vettel’s shock Q2 knockout put him at the head of the eliminated midfield in 11th. He missed the cut by 0.165s and was less than a tenth shy of being further embarrassed by AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly, who had to settle for 12th ahead of teammate Daniil Kvyat.
Esteban Ocon’s first qualifying session since 2018 yielded a lowly 14th place while teammate Daniel Ricciardo progressed to Q3, the Frenchman fending off Haas driver Romain Grosjean by less than 0.05s.
Kevin Magnussen was eliminated from Q1 in P16, missing out on progression by 0.070s at the hands of teammate Grosjean. The Dane complained after his first flying lap that he’d been “massively” blocked by Leclerc, but a cleaner second attempt proved the car wasn’t quick enough to make much of an improvement anyway.
George Russell missed out on beating Magnussen by just 0.003s, in doing so validating the Williams team’s expected step forward from the very back of the field during the off-season — and he likely would have made the Q2 cut were it not for a scruffy exit at Turn 4.
Doubly pleasing was that Russell’s time is a 0.7s improvement on his 2019 qualifying effort at the Red Bull Ring and enough to overhaul both Alfa Romeo drivers.
Inversely Alfa Romeo confirmed a severe slide backwards, with Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Raikkonen qualifying 18th and 19th and around a second slower than they had been last year, when they started the Austrian Grand Prix eighth and seventh respectively.
Rookie Nicholas Latifi qualified 20th and almost 0.6s behind teammate Russell after his practice crash earlier in the day.