F1 2020: Bottas claims Austrian GP pole with record lap for Mercedes as Ferrari struggles

The first qualifying session of the 2020 Formula One season has finally concluded in the latest start to the season in the history of the sport. While Mercedes outpaced closest rivals — Red Bulls on the track with a record-setting time by Valtteri Bottas, the race on Sunday could be extremely interesting between the Silver Arrows (in black livery) and Max Verstappen on Red Bull’s home turf.

By:Updated: Jul 04, 2020 8:22 PM

Valtteri Bottas has claimed the first pole of the 2020 season for the Austrian Grand Prix for Mercedes-AMG F1. Bottas will start the race from the front of the pack and will have team-mate, Lewis Hamilton, alongside him for company. But with Verstappen on a different strategy for the race starting from third, the race on Sunday is one that is going to be interesting. What was surprising, however, is the pace from the Ferrari duo. While the Scuderia came into the race suggesting that their car will be competitive in the first two rounds, the pace the two Ferrari drivers showed was miles off the pace. But Ferrari will arrive in Hungary for the third round of the season with a new car which they claim will be more competitive. Here is how the first session fo qualifying at the Red Bull Ring panned out.

In the first session of qualifying (Q1), it was the first time we got a realistic glimpse of where each team stands against one and another.  Max Verstappen set the fastest time of the session with the Mercedes cars following closely behind with the top 10 cars coming in pithing half a second. But the first session saw the Haas of Kevin Magnussen, the Williams of George Russel, the two Alfa Romeos of Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Raikkonen, and Nicolas Latifi on his F1 debut for Williams to be eliminated. These five drivers will start the race tomorrow from 16th and below respectively.

The second session in Q2, While Mercedes set the fastest times of the session, Red Bull decided to take a gamble with Verstappen to go out on a set of medium tyres, while the everyone else was on the soft compound tyres. Verstappen couldn’t really match the pace of the Mercedes of course with the less grippy tyres. But having set his fastest time on the mediums, he will now start the race on Sunday on the same tyres, which can be a vital strategic move for the race for him and Red Bull.

The surprise was to see how uncompetitive the Ferraris were in Q2. Charles Leclerc just about made it into the final session with the 10th fastest time. But his team-mate Sebastian Vettel, unfortunately, was eliminated in Q2 and will start the race from 11th on the grid. While there may have been mechanical issues in the past that had yielded similar results, this was the first time Vettel did not manage to reach Q3 on pace alone for Ferrari. Also eliminated in Q2 were the two Alpha Tauri cars of Pierre Gasly and Daniil Kvyat who will start from 12th and 13th respectively. Esteban Ocon will start the race from 14th on his return to Formula 1 with Renault while Romain Grosjean in the Haas was 15th fastest. 

In Q3, the final session of qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix, the Mercedes drivers showed their might with Valtteri Bottas setting a new lap record moving into the 1min, 02s. He was followed closely by Hamilton and the Red Bull of Max Verstappen, all cars now on the soft tyres. As the cars came out for the second and final hot laps of the session, Lewis Hamilton was on his hot lap to clinch the first pole of the season. But, Bottas went off the track and into the gravel on his hot lap. Hamilton and the rest of the pack failed to improve and beat the record-setting lap by Bottas. This allowed the Finn to claim the first pole for the 2020 season and will start the race ahead of Hamilton in second. Verstappen will start third on the second row of the grid alongside Lando Norris in the McLaren. Alex Albon was fifth fastest in the second Red Bull, with Sergio Perez in sixth for Racing Point. Leclerc was only seventh fastest with Sainz, Stroll and Ricciardo completing the top 10 grid sports in that respective order for tomorrow’s race.

It will be an interesting battle on Sunday between Max Verstappen starting on the longer-lasting medium compound tyres, and the two Mercedes cars on the softer compounds on the front row. Additionally, with Norris in the mix, it could be exciting to see how McLaren perform during the first race of teh season.

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