The Saturday in F1 Austrian GP had one clear driver from Red Bull in the front but everyone else catching him, where Mercedes lost the most.
While the top spot could have been predicted for Saturday in F1 Austrian GP, where Red Bull’s Max Verstappen took pole, the front-row having McLaren’s Lando Norris, wasn’t on card. But the Brit managed to do, ending up only 0.048s behind.
Verstappen, though, wasn’t happy with his final Q3 lap where he found himself at the front of the field with no tow, which allowed Norris to catch up, who was behind him. A slow run from the Mercedes duo helped Red Bull’s Sergio Perez to end up third.
Perez was not looking to be in the Top 3 at all in the F1 weekend on qualifying pace, but managed to get together a lap after exploring multiple set-ups and options. This gives Red Bull a good chance for the Austrian GP, where both the Mercedes drivers are behind.
For them, they simply lacked the underlying pace in their car. While they may get hold of Norris in Sunday’s F1 race, it will be a task for them to penetrate the Red Bull duo if they build-up a lead. Valtteri Bottas reckoned that their rivals found more pace on C5.
Verstappen: “Q1 and Q2 were very good. It was all going really smooth and the laps were good enough and nice. Just in Q3 I locked up in Turn 3, so that wasn’t amazing. And in the second run I was the first car out so I just lost time on the straights, so I couldn’t improve my lap time even with a more normal Turn 3.
“As for the overall results, of course what we like is to have both cars in the front so we look forward now to try to have a good race and score a lot of good points for the team and hopefully it works out well. We have softer compounds of course than last weekend so it will be a bit more difficult to manage those but it’s for everyone. On my final run, I went out and I realised that I was the first so then you just get on with it but I didn’t expect to lose so much time on the straights, so that’s what we will know for next time.”
Norris: “It feels really good to be here with Max and Sergio. It feels like we made a good step forward from last weekend with a couple of things. I was kind of… not frustrated but I thought there was a little bit more in it last weekend – especially to be ahead of both the Mercedes cars and that’s what we did. The whole of quali was pretty good; pretty straightforward and good laps and so on. I think most corners I definitely did my best laps on. I was actually just behind Max, so I was P2 on track and was a bit nervous I was going to start losing a lot in the straights – which I did but I made up for it in the corners. Especially the high-speed. I took quite a few more risks and that’s where I found a lot of my lap-time and it paid off in the end.
“As for the race result, probably another P5, why? We’ll do our best to try to take a step forward and go in the right direction – but it wasn’t like we were exactly close last F1 weekend. And now, we have that little bit more of a step. I don’t want to be too negative, I want to be optimistic as I should be – but I’m also realistic and know it’s going to be a very tough race. We’re in the best position possible to maximise everything but if I have a chance to go for P1, a chance to race Max and go for it, then I will. I’m still doing that, I’m still racing, I still want to do the best I can – but I think I also know what’s best for us, what’s best for myself and the team and who we are – sadly – really racing against in the race.”
Hamilton: “I would say so. On pure pace, it’s definitely out of the question, a win for us. Those guys have got two cars to get through in front, and they’ve got three-tenths on us – I think they’ve improved their car again for this weekend – so I would say that’s an easy cruise to a win for Max. I think for us it’s to try and see if we can get ahead of Perez and try to limit the damage this F1 weekend. I don’t have an answer for it; we just weren’t quick. We just weren’t any quicker. Put in the time, worked so hard to improve the car, but this is our underlying pace. I don’t know if they’ve improved the car again this weekend, I have no idea, but we haven’t, and we’ve just got to keep working. I don’t know if we can repeat last weekend’s strategy – we definitely can’t take it to the Red Bulls, obviously. Just too fast. But maybe we can step up, I guess my race now is with the two guys ahead of me – trying to get past them.”
With Norris leading the mid-pack, the Top 10 had both the AlphaTauri and Aston Martin, along with Williams’ George Russell. For Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda, it was another solid run, this time, with both cars. They are wary of starting on soft, but reckon, they will be good shape for points, which is the same for their nearest rivals too.
While Lance Stroll had a trouble-free outing, teammate Sebastian Vettel faces a three-place grid drop after impeding Alpine’s Fernando Alonso. It seemed like a chain reaction, but the German was handed the penalty, which the Spaniard was not too bothered, as he felt, his F1 Austrian GP was ruined already, after getting knocked out in Q2.
Vettel apologised for it but it was not enough. The FIA stewards cleared Bottas and Carlos Sainz, who seemingly slowed at Turn 9 and Turn 10, which resulted in a chain reaction. Speaking of the Ferrari, both their F1 drivers, were a bit disappointed to miss out in Q3, but were happy with the free tyre choice and their race pace. They will be eager to get into the Top 10 soon with the pace, and their first hurdle will be Russell, who finally made it in the Q3.
Vettel: “We agreed that we slow down on the straight between Turns 8 and 9. I’m slowing down, everybody jumping the queue and they all slow down between 9 and 10 where we agreed not to slow down. So if I get a penalty we should all get a penalty! I don’t think I could have done anything differently – I checked the mirrors out of precaution but it’s blind. I saw Fernando coming last second but I basically cancelled my lap – I was too close, bad exit – just to get out of the way. I am really sorry for him, there is nothing he has done wrong, but don’t think there was much I could have done.”
Alonso: “We were as fast as ever in this qualifying as we have been this season. P3 in Q1, and a potential for P4/P5 in Q2, and maybe P5 or P6 in Q3 because we had two sets of tyres. So a big consequence for our weekend, because even our qualifying tyre choices were made to maximise Saturday, and Saturday has been terrible with P14. I guess the weekend is over now for us, but nothing we can do.
“Seb’s penalty changes nothing. It will change something for them, but for us it will change everything on the weekend. I don’t think that Seb could do much more because inside the car we are just relying on our engineers, so I guess it was more the team than Seb himself. Sometimes you have to back off, because the car in front is doing it. So as a consequence three or four cars behind have to do it. If we had a free track for sure we will try to have a clean out lap. As I said, I don’t think Seb did anything wrong because it was a couple of cars in front of him already slowing down. So as I said, the biggest thing is for our race – what happens to them doesn’t change much.”
Leclerc: “It was kind of the plan to not go to Q3 to be honest because we wanted to have a free choice, but on the other hand I’m a bit disappointed; obviously the best would be to go to Q3 on the medium tyre, which Williams managed to do with George which is very impressive, and that’s what leaves me a bit disappointed. To be behind them on a medium is not great.”
Russell: “It really felt like a pole position, it really felt like a pole position for us. Getting into Q3 is one thing, but doing so on the medium tyre is massive. We were obviously debating prior to the session in which order we do the Q2, whether it’s the soft first followed by the medium, or vice-versa. But we were pretty adamant we didn’t want to go in the top 10 on the softs. To manage to pull that off, almost feels like a pole position, and the most pumped up I’ve been since I last won a race, probably.
“If we did that last stint on the soft, it would have been really tricky, because like I said, we don’t think we wanted to be on that soft. We’re in an amazing position with the AlphaTauris ahead of us on the soft, Stroll and probably Sebastian behind us on the softs too. Yeah, we think that tyre is going to be disastrous in the race. It seemed like they know something we don’t! Hopefully they don’t. We’ve got flexibility to do as we wish with the strategy, whereas I think those guys are pretty locked in.
“I think on a circuit like this, it’s so short, and as a driver or as a team, if you make a small mistake, there’s not enough time to make it back up. We’re really getting every last millisecond out of the car and just making less mistakes than others, and everything just felt in the sweet spot to be honest, it felt like a really sweet lap. And that’s the difference, you saw I think it was half a tenth, it’s milliseconds to being not in Q3, to P10 and P13. It was so close, as it always is here.”
Behind the mid-pack, it was Alfa Romeo, once again with Antonio Giovinazzi ahead of Kimi Raikkonen. At the same time, Mick Schumacher was the leading Haas from Nikita Mazepin, where the German even managed to get Nicholas Latifi. The biggest disappointment was for Alpine’s Esteban Ocon, who noted that he made no improvements whatsoever. It was worse than even McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo, who said, he felt better, even though the F1 result sheet didn’t show it.
Aside the qualifying, on the sidelines, representatives of Mercedes, Ferrari, Renault, Porsche and Audi met at Red Bull Ring to discuss the future engine regulations. There wasn’t much on offer about what was discussed but a joint statement from F1 and FIA was released, which stated:
“Very positive discussions took place today with all of the current and potential new Power Unit suppliers regarding the next phase of the Formula 1 Power Unit. The discussions will continue over the coming weeks with further news to be announced following those discussions.”
Here’s how F1 Austrian GP qualifying panned out