BY JUST FOUR HUNDREDTHS OF A SECOND
Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas scored his second pole position in Austria, edging Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel by just four hundredths of a second. Lewis Hamilton finished third but a grid penalty for a changed gearbox is set to drop the Briton to eighth for tomorrow’s race start.
Bottas established the narrow advantage in the opening runs of Q3 and when Romain Grosjean’s Haas broke down on track as the quickest men began their final flyers, the yellow flags shown as a result meant that there could be no improvement.
Haas’ Kevin Magnussen, who had finished in P7 in FP3, set the early pace in Q1, before he was first usurped by Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Riccairdo and then sidelined by a suspension failure. The Haas driver would eventually go through to Q2 in P12 but did not take any further part in the session and qualified in P15.
As the segment got into its stride it was Vettel who established himself at the head of the pack with a time of 1:05.585. The Ferrari driver set the time on suspersoft tyres and sat back and waited to see if he could get through without resorting to the ultrasofts almost every other driver was using.
Lewis Hamilton’s 1:05.064 dropped Vettel back, as did Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen’s 1:05.148, set on ultrasofts, but otherwise Vettel went safely through on supersofts in P3 ahead of Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz, Bottas (the only other man to just use supersofts in the opening segment) and the Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo in sixth and seventh respectively.
Sainz’s excellent lap came right at the end of the session and was much needed, with the Spaniard languishing in the drop zone in the final minutes. There was to be no escape for the Williams drivers, however.
As the final time arrived, Felipe Massa and team-mate Lance Stroll found themselves lodged in 17th and 18th places respectively and unable to find the pace to make up the time to vault past 16th placed Jolyon Palmer of Renault. The Williams drivers went out ahead of the Saubers of Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein.
In Q2 it was Bottas who seized the initiative. With ultrasofts onboard he powered to P1 with a best time of 1:04.316, almost half a second clear of second-place Vettel and third-placed Hamilton, who this time was the one to opt for supersofts, meaning he’ll start on that compound.
Verstappen was fourth for Red Bull ahead of Raikkonen and Ricciardo. Grosjean was seventh for Haas ahead of Force India’s Sergio Perez, Sainz and the second Force India of Esteban Ocon.
Eliminated at this stage, though, were Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg in P11, followed by the McLarens of Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne, Daniil Kvyat in the second Toro Rosso in P14 and the unfortunate Magnussen.
After the first runs in Q3 Bottas held a narrow advantage over Vettel and it proved crucial. As the drivers warmed-up for or began their final flying laps, Haas’ Romain Grosjean stopped on track and the resulting yellow flags prevented improvements at the front.
The top three positions remained unchanged, with Hamilton in third and set to start from eighth place once his gearbox penalty is applied ahead of the race start. Raikkonen was forced to settle for best of the rest in fourth, half a second down on his team-mate.
Ricciardo outqualified team-mate Verstappen for the first time since the Russian Grand Prix. The Australian qualified fifth and is set to start fourth. Verstappen, meanwhile, might have improved by he made a mistake on his final lap and went off in Turn 7. Grosjean qualified seventh, with Force India duo Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon in eighth and ninth, and Carlos Sainz making up the top 10 for Toro Rosso.
2017 Austrian Grand Prix – Qualifying
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:04.251
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:04.293 0.042
3 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:04.779 0.528
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:04.896 0.645
5 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:04.98 0.732
6 Romain Grosjean Haas 1:05.480 1.229
7 Sergio Perez Force India 1:05.605 1.354
8 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:04.424 0.173
9 Esteban Ocon Force India 1:05.674 1.423
10 Carlos Sainz Jr. Toro Rosso 1:05.726 1.475
11 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:05.597 1.346
12 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:05.602 1.351
13 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 1:05.741 1.490
14 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:05.884 1.633
15 Kevin Magnussen Haas
16 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:06.34 2.094
17 Felipe Massa Williams 1:06.534 2.283
18 Lance Stroll Williams 1:06.608 2.357
19 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:06.857 2.606
20 Pascal Wehrlein Sauber 1:07.011 2.760