The Saturday in F1 Styrian GP had Red Bull reign supreme again, as dry weather running greeted everyone, in an interesting qualifying finish.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen looked unbeatable in F1 Styrian GP qualifying and he eventually earned pole by a good margin over direct rivals Mercedes, who slipped into the clutches of McLaren’s Lando Norris apart from the other Red Bull of Sergio Perez.
For the Dutchman, it ended up being pretty simple, even the small blip of not doing the pre-Q3 warm-up properly, didn’t bother him. His teammate Sergio Perez, though, did not have the best of runs after he was forced to use an extra set of soft in Q1.
The Mexican noted that he did not have the balance right in Q1, which left him vulnerable in Q3. The first run on the scrubbed set was good but his final run, the outlap wasn’t good enough, which allowed Norris to jump him with a better lap.
He is on a different strategy too, starting on the soft tyres, with only Verstappen and Mercedes on the mediums. For them, Valtteri Bottas will drop to fifth, while Lewis Hamilton will start alongside Verstappen – both of them had mixed feelings after qualifying.
Hamilton rued his queue jump in Q3 on his final run, which in hindsight, he wouldn’t do. As for Bottas, he was still miffed with what happened in practice, which left him with a penalty, especially after the F1 teams complained about the situation.
Verstappen: “I think it clicked quite well in qualifying. We made a few little adjustments and it seemed like that was a good step forwards. So, yeah, just getting through the tyres, making sure that you would qualify on the Medium in Q2 because the gaps around here, with all the other teams as well are quite small, so it was not, let’s say, super easy to get through Q2 with that tyre – but we managed to do that.
“That first lap was pretty good, my second run was a little bit worse, just because I was the last one in the train so I think my tyres were just a little bit too cold to start the lap. Nevertheless, yeah, it was a good qualifying. I think my engineer actually fired me up because he was upset that I didn’t do the cycle lap on the soft so he came on the radio when I boxed and he was like ‘I know you were held up into Turn 1 but you should have pushed for the lap, to see how the tyres were’ so I didn’t answer but I think secretly inside it did fire me up to push a bit harder on that first run in Q3.
“As for the race, it seems like in the long runs again we are quite closely matched. Of course that’s yesterday, tomorrow is a bit of a different day. We’ll see but I expect it, of course, to again be close. Hopefully it will be an exciting one again.”
Hamilton: “It was a difficult session for me. I’ve generally had a really good weekend so far. Of course not as quick as Max but I did a lot of work before the event and then the car was feeling great all day yesterday. We’ve just been chipping away at it. Each change is just trying to eke-out 10ms or something. And then I got into qualifying and the car just didn’t feel as great as it did in P3. I don’t fully understand it.
“I wouldn’t say I was particularly that quick in qualifying but nonetheless I’m really happy to be where we are. The next two-tenths is a little bit difficult. They’ve had straight-line speed again this weekend, which is hard for us to compete with. But I’m really proud of the team for just continuing to push hard, not leave any stone unturned. As for the jump in Q3, in hindsight…I knew that everyone was just going so slow and I was worried about not having the tyres up to temperature but I went on all the dirty lines.
“So I was just picking up all the dirt on the tyres and then a poor exit out of the last corner so already by Turn 1 I was a tenth down and already by Turn 3, I was two tenths down, so no hope in that respect and then naturally tried to over-drive to gather that pace, that time lost, back and it didn’t work. And for three runs, just I was told that I had three tyres and I could use them all so I said yes, I threw everything at it, give it three shots in the hope to close the gap of two tenths to Max but yeah, as I said, the last one not great when there’s all those people out there and you’re not able to get the temperature in the tyres. But, you know, as I said, we did everything that we could.”
Bottas: “I honestly think it was good qualifying. I think I’ve been a little bit lost with the set-up during the weekend so far. But being able to go in the right direction with the set-up, we’ve been working closely with Lewis as well to try to find the optimal set-up and definitely got some guidance from his side of the garage this weekend because I was definitely lacking a bit of pace on Friday and was a bit confused about which way to go and yeah, we were working as a team and found the right direction.
“I think thanks to that I found the confidence in the car and felt good. That last lap, there were definitely not two-tenths on the table so I think Max and Red Bull were faster. It was a good lap and I’m pleased for that. Of course, it’s a shame I have the penalty but obviously the job was to try and maximise the situation. As for the pitlane incident, it definitely caught me out. I never imagined that would happen in the pit lane but yeah, we decided to try something different, launch with the second gear, because sometimes with a higher gear you have lower revs and maybe you can manage to wheelspin or the initial part is not so aggressive but then once I got the wheelspin, it really caught me out and I don’t know, perhaps the line in the pit lane was still slightly damp from the drizzle.
“I just couldn’t hold it. Obviously quite a different behaviour in second gear than first gear. So that happened. My personal view is that the penalty was quite harsh. I never imagined after that that there would be a penalty but of course other teams, when they see the opportunity, they complained that it was dangerous etc so that we would get penalised. That’s how it goes, so everyone is always trying to screw you over in this sport. I mean yes, it can be a dangerous situation if there’s many people in the pit lane but…”
The pitlane matter saw Toto Wolff speak up too, as he added:
“It’s highly entertaining how quickly some sporting directors jump on the channel to Masi and come with Armageddon scenarios. It’s good that these channels are now opened up so we can all have a laugh. On the flip side of the thing, Valtteri spun in the pit lane and could have hurt somebody. And whether this is walking speed like it happened, it still can hurt somebody severely. And I understand the penalty, too.
“I find it harsh, particularly against someone like Valtteri who’s never putting a foot wrong. He was very honest and straightforward with his explanation. Any others would have come out and would have said ‘I don’t know what happened, the banner on the floor, the sponsorship on the floor was slippy and you really need to change the way you paint because I had no idea what could happen…’
“He came out and said ‘I tried to optimise my starts and I lost it’. So we should have a little bit more integrity, like Valtteri has, around the paddock. Including some of the ones that push the button very quickly and moan about everybody else and whinge.”
In between the Top 2 F1 teams is McLaren’s Norris, who will start from third. After some qualifying issues for the British team, it was a solid return to a top run for them and one of their drivers, who was surprised by the pace and gap to Mercedes ahead.
His fight, though, will not be Verstappen and or Hamilton, but more with Bottas and or Perez, if he can hold them off. In case, he cannot, it will then switch to retaining the best of the rest position ahead of AlphaTauri, Alpine, Ferrari and Aston Martin.
While there was joy for Norris, it wasn’t as much for Daniel Ricciardo, who found himself knocked out in Q2, after losing pace from Friday to Saturday. Speaking to media including FormulaRapida.net, the Australian was still upbeat about the situation, but didn’t have detailed explanation on the happenings.
Ricciardo: “I don’t know. It is what happened, a bit of a mystery, actually. We were obviously quick on Friday, and I know it’s only Friday practice, and I didn’t expect to be fighting for pole position. But obviously we were pretty comfortable with everything. We put the car on track and we are one second slower, pretty much. Then qualifying I think was a product also of this morning, we were just off the pace. Why? Not sure. But it was definitely one of those days, a bit of a frustrating one.
“So we’ll obviously try to understand why and how. It’s not like there was a lot of time here or there, it was just a little bit of lap time everywhere, and you try and improve a bit. But I just felt like everything I did, I was not really able to gain anything else out of the car. We fine-tuned a little bit. But nothing crazy, nothing which should explain being so far off today. And you obviously change the car to try to be quicker.
“So we definitely didn’t expect this. In the high speed I tried to just carry a bit more. But I felt if I tried to carry a bit more then I’m looking at the edge of track limits, and just really struggling to keep it all on the track. And that’s where I felt like I was kind of at the limit of everything. But the laptime never really got lower, it kind of just hovered around that area. One of those days I guess, we’ll try to figure it out and look forward to the F1 race now, it’s all we can do.”
Inside the Top 10, it will be AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly, the immediate threat for Norris, but with the French F1 driver having missed FP2, it will be a bit unknown in the grand prix as he noted. Teammate Yuki Tsunoda also made it in the Top 10, but will start from 11th after impeding Bottas – it is a good step from the Japanese driver after early struggles.
On Ferrari’s side, Charles Leclerc managed to get into the Top 10 but Carlos Sainz struggled with the one lap pace and was knocked out in Q2. The Monegasque had a peculiar observation, where he noted that his team weren’t gaining as much with the DRS, when deployed, which is what surprised him, apart from the gap to Norris
Leclerc: “I’m happy about my lap, actually very happy with my lap. I put everything together. I did a good lap. I didn’t do any mistakes, put all of my best corners in one lap. But then on the other hand. When I’m looking at the gap in between myself and Lando, I wouldn’t go as far as scary, but it’s quite a bit. We are losing quite a bit in the first sector, which is mainly the three DRS zones, for some reason. We don’t completely understand why yet because it’s mostly where we are opening the DRS and the others seem to be a lot stronger with the DRS on. So it’s not in all the straights, it’s mostly in those three straights. Then overall grip, probably, a little bit, but we are not that bad in the corners actually if you compare to the others.”
Just behind them, Alpine’s Fernando Alonso came alive once again and felt pretty confident in the car, just as teammate Esteban Ocon started to struggle and dropped out in Q1 itself. The Spaniard hustled the car and made it in the Top 10, while the Frenchman admitted to have lost pace in the last few races, struggling to balance the slow and high speed corners.
Even though Alonso was in the Top 10, he will have stiff challenge from the Aston Martin duo of Lance Stroll and Sebastian Vettel, where the former made it in Q3 after a good run, the latter admitted that he couldn’t generate a clean lap. They also have Williams’ George Russell for the company, who seems confident on his race pace after qualifying 11th.
Teammate Nicholas Latifi looked like certain for Q2 until his last lap where he had traffic and couldn’t improve eventually. Williams seems confident of race pace, but will have Alfa Romeo, where Antonio Giovinazzi once again triumphed Kimi Raikkonen. Over at Haas, it was pretty straightforward, where Mick Schumacher thought he had a Q2 chance.
Russell: “Obviously, we want to get into Q3, that would be a great achievement. But so close, so satisfying when we get the maximum from it and we do this a lot. And even more so, we’re putting a lot more emphasis on the Sunday pace and just trying to really maximise the car for the race pace. So let’s see how it turns out. I think we are there on merit. We’ve got a lot of quick guys behind – Ricciardo, Sainz, Vettel – but I’m looking forward and we want to score some points. We probably had the best Friday we’ve ever had. We did have a new set of hards for the race pace, which I think did account for something. We didn’t do the low fuel on the hards. So for sure, that accounted to something, but the car felt really good and we look strong and lets see, if it does translate into something.”
Here’s how F1 Styrian GP qualifying panned out