Lewis Hamilton added major boost to his hopes of clinching a record seventh world title by putting his Mercedes right on top at the Styrian mountains as he delivered a master-class in wet weather racing by clinching pole position for the second race of the season.
In so doing, Lewis beat Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, in second place, in delivering a belter of a lap at 1:19:273.
But the scrap for pole position wasn’t before Max Verstappen, the dominant driver at Austria (where the last two editions of the event stand, before the 2020 opener) spun around at the final corner whilst going great guns in his last flying lap.
Although, he had put enough pace in his final flying run to ensure the second place on the grid would belong to him.
The late shunt, however, ultimately played beautifully into the hands of the experienced Briton, whose nose was always ahead of the other Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas, race-winner at the same venue a week back.
Verstappen spins, Hamilton wins, Carlos impresses at the Styrian GP
Meanwhile, there were bright smiles in the McLaren paddock as the Orange-liveried car of Carlos Sainz crossed the finished line as third-fastest in Q3, a brilliant finish on a day where the Ferraris struggled just as much and where someone like Charles Leclerc was knocked out of Q3 amid massive surprise.
Never before has the Spaniard begun his Austrian challenge from third on the grid. It remains to be seen whether the McLaren driver can hold onto his own come race-day.
Fourth in running was Valtteri Bottas, who struggled for grip much throughout the short-lived Q3 and was followed by Esteban Ocon in his blazing Renault, Lando Norris in the other McLaren, Alex Albon in seventh, with Gasly, Ricciardo, and Vettel following in eighth, ninth, and tenth, respectively.
While there wasn’t too much of a surprise to see the likes of Albon and Norris finishing brilliantly inside the top ten, the surprise package of the rain-soaked qualifying session was the Renault with the number 31.
Man on the charge
While he may have eeked out an unsung P8 at the last race, but where the qualifying of the Styrian GP was concerned, then Esteban Ocon surely didn’t go without any notice. Hot on the trail of the speed traps of the two McLarens and going nearly as good as the Alpha Tauri of Pierre Gasly, the young Frenchman was quite the revelation of the evening as he’d put his Renault fifth-fastest at 1:20:922.
Just who saw this coming.
Where most drivers further down the rear end of the grid struggled to put pace, Ocon had his nose out in the front, jostling for impressive positions fighting the triumvirate of Mercedes, Red Bull, and McLaren, in that order.
It wasn’t a day to remember for Ferrari in the final practice session, however, as Charles Leclerc, who captured a vital podium (second at Austrian GP) failed to qualify for Q3, finding himself down in eleventh.
Those who followed him with a disappointing Q2 were George Russell- although impressive with P12- Stroll (P13), Daniil Kvyat (P14), and Kevin Magnussen (P15).
How Q2 impacted the backmarkers
Although, the likes of Kimi Raikkonen, due to begin sixteenth on the grid, and Sergio Perez (Racing Point, seventeenth), would consider themselves a tad bit unlucky, for it was young Italian Antonio Giovinazzi, whose late spin under torrential rains right at the fading stages of Q2 ended the session rather prematurely.
This left the Finn and Mexican out of time to set a hot flying lap when they had a chance to improve on their timesheets.
That said, Latifi, who looked impressive and in firm control for the better part of Saturday’s qualifying battle found himself eighteenth on the grid.
The last two drivers were Antonio Giovinazzi, who struggled for speed vis-a-vis his more experienced teammate throughout the run, with Grosjean failing to set a time, beginning from the bottom end of the grid
What lies ahead?
It’s advantage Lewis Hamilton out here at the mind-numbing beauty of the Styrian mountains. Going by the past record, it’s not usually that tough for Hamilton to open a big gap going by his lofty standards but can that happen tomorrow as well, we have to wait and watch.
Meanwhile, Max Verstappen would believe he has a fair chance to make a lunge on an adversary he considers he can beat. Second place at Spielberg isn’t really a bad spot to begin. As for Sainz, he’ll be keen to guard his track position from the imperiously quick Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas in particular, who, going by recent form, can be quite the indomitable force at the 71-lap contest.
Though, spare a thought for Daniel Ricciardo, who managed to salvage a fighting eighth having crashed out on Friday’s practice run, the only driver who didn’t set a time.