Lewis Hamilton put in a vintage qualifying performance in atrocious wet weather conditions to claim pole position for Sunday’s Styrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring.
It was a performance reminiscent of his upset run to pole position at the 2018 Hungarian Grand Prix, such was his ability to master a soaked track while simultaneously making his rivals look like complete amateurs in contrast.
Torrential weather had forced a suspension of the first Formula 3 support race and a complete cancellation of the final practice session for the Formula 1 drivers, sparking doubt that qualifying would even take place later in the afternoon.
It eventually began 45 minutes late once conditions had eased, although the weather would deteriorate as the three-part session wore on.
While Hamilton was quickest in the first two knockout sessions, Max Verstappen was the pace-setter early on in Q3. His position at the top of the timesheets was soon threatened by Hamilton and his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas.
It was exciting stuff but Hamilton, as he has done so often in these conditions, simply found another gear. His final lap, a 1:19.273, was a drive of superb touch in utterly gripless conditions. Verstappen attempted to counter but underscored the trickiness of the conditions when he lost the back end of his Red Bull Racing Honda through the final corner. The eventual gap the pole-winner was a galling 1.2 seconds.
Last weekend’s race-winner Bottas found himself bumped to fourth on the grid thanks to a late and equally impressive effort by McLaren’s Carlos Sainz Jr while the Spaniard’s teammate Lando Norris was sixth-quickest despite suffering from back pain this weekend. The English youngster will, however, take a three-place grid penalty for overtaking through a yellow-flag zone in FP1.
Esteban Ocon planted his Renault fifth-fastest, while Alexander Albon was seventh-quickest in the second Red Bull ahead of AlfaTauri’s Pierre Gasly. Ocon’s teammate Daniel Ricciardo was ninth.
It was another frustrating weekend for Ferrari. Sebastian Vettel scraped into Q3 and ultimately qualified tenth-fastest, while teammate Charles Leclerc was eliminated in Q2 and then hit with a three-place penalty for impeding AlfaTauri’s Daniil Kvyat.
Qualifying a superb twelfth-fastest was George Russell, who showed how rain could be a great equaliser to put his little-fancied car well up the order. It was the Grove team’s first Q2 appearance since 2018.
By contrast, neither Racing Point was able to convert their dry-weather Friday pace into a strong qualifying performance on Saturday. Lance Stroll was thirteenth-quickest while teammate Sergio Pérez was bundled out in Q1 and will start from P17.
|FORMULA 1 PIRELLI GROSSER PREIS DER STEIERMARK 2020 – QUALIFYING|
|Q3 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap|
|1.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes-AMG F1 Team W11||1:19.273|
|2.||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing RB16||1:20.489||+ 1.216|
|3.||Carlos Sainz Jr.||McLaren F1 Team MCL35||1:20.671||+ 1.398|
|4.||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes-AMG F1 Team W11||1:20.701||+ 1.428|
|5.||Esteban Ocon||Renault F1 Team R.S.20||1:20.922||+ 1.649|
|6.||Lando Norris||McLaren F1 Team MCL35||1:20.925||+ 1.652|
|7.||Alexander Albon||Red Bull Racing RB16||1:21.011||+ 1.738|
|8.||Pierre Gasly||Scuderia AlfaTauri AT01||1:21.028||+ 1.755|
|9.||Daniel Ricciardo||Renault F1 Team R.S.20||1:21.192||+ 1.919|
|10.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF1000||1:21.651||+ 2.378|
|Q2 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap*|
|11.||Charles Leclerc||Scuderia Ferrari SF1000||1:19.628||+ 1.803|
|12.||George Russell||Williams Racing FW43||1:19.636||+ 1.811|
|13.||Lance Stroll||Racing Point F1 Team RP20||1:19.645||+ 1.820|
|14.||Daniil Kvyat||Scuderia AlfaTauri AT01||1:19.717||+ 1.892|
|15.||Kevin Magnussen||Haas F1 Team VF-20||1:20.211||+ 2.386|
|Q1 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap**|
|16.||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo Racing C39||1:21.372||+ 3.184|
|17.||Sergio Pérez||Racing Point F1 Team RP20||1:21.607||+ 3.419|
|18.||Nicholas Latifi||Williams Racing FW43||1:21.759||+ 3.571|
|19.||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Racing C39||1:21.831||+ 3.643|
|Outside 107%||Team / Entry||Time||Gap**|
|DNQ.||Romain Grosjean||Haas F1 Team VF-20||no time|
* Denotes gap to fastest Q2 lap time of 1:17.825 set by Lewis Hamilton
** Denotes gap to fastest Q1 lap time of 1:18.188 set by Lewis Hamilton
- Lando Norris penalised three grid places for overtaking under yellow flags during FP1.
- Charles Leclerc penalised three grid places for impeding Daniil Kvyat during qualifying.
- Antonio Giovinazzi penalised five grid places for an unscheduled gearbox change.
Image via Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team