Mercedes haven’t lost a single race ever since they returned to the Spielberg circuit at Austria starting 2014. If there has been a team to beat at the Red Bull Ring, then it’s clearly the Silver Arrows.
Mercedes’ dominant form at Austria
Thanks to Rosberg, the Austrian Grand Prix has been lifted to a seminal level thanks to Rosberg winning electrifying duels in 2014, 2015, with Lewis Hamilton clinching the 2016 Grand Prix, which was followed by Bottas’ heroic win in 2017, ahead of Sebastien Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo.
Little doubting Mercedes’ incredible form at Austria, providing a signature of speed at Red Bull ring in the past. And it seems, it will remain that way unless any of the Ferrari’s or Red Bull’s prove to be a thorn in their path on Sunday as Bottas stormed to steal an incredible pole in the final qualifying run on Saturday.
Bottas takes pole at the Austrian Grand Prix 2018
Appearing to have ripped up the form book, Valtteri Bottas produced a scintillating 1:03:130, finishing just 0.019 seconds ahead of the 2018 championship leader and Mercedes teammate, Lewis Hamilton.
In doing so, the 2018 Austrian Grand Prix produced a front row lockout for the Silver Arrows, clearly the frontrunners to emerge on top at Spielberg. But this is particularly interesting as running on imperious pace, Hamilton had seemed the man to better on Saturday having stamped his authority all Friday. Ideal that teammate Bottas bettered then, Lewis?
How did the Ferrari’s perform?
Closely followed by a Ferrari, suspected of sand-bagging throughout Friday, Sebastian Vettel, currently second on the driver’s standings was quick in the closing stages, but not close enough to clinch pole, securing a P3 for Sunday. He would be followed by the sister Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen, again finding himself out-qualified, even if so by a dainty margin of 0.2 seconds.
But that told, the most impressive run toward the middle of the pack, it could be said, came from the Haas of Romain Grosjean, bisecting the two Red Bulls of Verstappen and Ricciardo.
Haas’ Grosjean punctures the Red Bulls
In clinching his personal best qualifying 0f 2018, a P6, right behind Verstappen by point fifth of a second, Romain Grosjean put his car ahead of the Australian driver, with Ricciardo starting at a rather sedate P7.
Should Romain keep up with the pace at the front and put his Haas in a fighting space for points, it would not only open his 2018 account but put some respectability to what was thus far been a horror run all year.
The eighth, ninth and, tenth positions went to the Haas of Kevin Magnussen and the Renault’s of Carlos Sainz and Nico Hulkenberg, respectively. But Hulkenberg, who’s failed to finish inside the top ten in his two previous runs at Austria would be keen to offset a poor run in recent years, although, the German will be keenly fought by his visibly quicker teammate, Sainz, nearly half a second quicker than car.no 27.
What could be expected at the Austrian Grand Prix?
Fans would want nothing more than an epic saga between two of the closest rivals of the contemporary structure of Formula 1, with both four-time champions going wheel to wheel on a track where overtaking isn’t a grind.
It will add a little spark to the 71-lap contest if one were to see a heavy-duty duel between the Ferrari of Vettel and the Mercedes of Hamilton, the latter, clearly enjoying a better run over the German, even where the previous Grand Prix (France) is concerned.
The Briton, however, could be expected to launch an out and out attack over his teammate Valtteri Bottas, who returns to Spielberg, a track he aced during 2017.
What can Bottas do to keep Hamilton, breathing on his tail, at bay?
Regardless, it will be interesting to see how the front two rows pan out in the opening few laps and whether we’ll witness a classic one-stop strategy at a track that’s no punisher for drivers where humidity or tyre degradation stands. It won’t be too surprising to see Raikkonen, in hindsight, dropping down a few places, particularly with Max tucked right behind the Finn.
Meanwhile, it will bring a massive sigh of relief for Red Bull fans to witness either among Verstappen and Ricciardo to fight for a podium finish. A win for the home team at Spielberg, for now, purely on paper seems out of question, unless one were to witness a sudden skirmish leading to key Mercedes or Ferrari retirements at the front.
For now, lights out and away we go at the Austrian Grand Prix 2018.