Following the Austrian Grand Prix being held last weekend at the Red Bull Ring, the second round of the season is the first-ever Styrian Grand Prix being held ate same track which is also a first. While Friday practice was bone dry with warmer temperatures, heavy rain at the Red Bull Ring forced the final practice session on Saturday morning to be cancelled. The rain also delayed the start of Q1. But when the 18-min first session began, Ferrari ensured that both its cars got out first on the wet weather Pirelli tyres, which was key for a quick time in the conditions. All other 9 teams followed the Ferraris in tandem on the same wet tyres. With Vettel setting the first time around 1 min 24 seconds, as the conditions on track improved, the time kept tumbling down with every lap.
Eventually, Hamilton set the fastest time of the session with a 1:18.188. The five cars which were eliminated after Q1 were Raikkonen who was 16th fastest, Perez in 17th with Nicolas Latifi in 18th for Williams. Antonio GIovinazzi spun in his Alfa Romeo causing damage to his car, brought out the red flag with 13 seconds left in the session. Giovinazzi was 19th fastest as Romain Grosjean was unable to set a proper time and will start from the back of the grid in 20th place for Haas. But finally, with the weather throwing a curveball, Williams finally made it out of Q1 with George Russell setting a time that allowed him to get into Q2.
In Q2, Mercedes managed to get the jump on Ferrari this time around with Bottas going out first. Bottas set his first time of the session with a 1 min 19, the track again started to evolve. This was in spite of the rain continuing, albeit much lighter. In the latter half of the session, the Ferrari’s found Vettel at risk in 10th and Leclerc in 11th and in danger of elimination. With less than four minutes remaining, the rain started to get heavier. Meaning, it became more difficult to improve lap times.
All eyes were on the Ferraris, Leclerc in particular. But no matter how hard they tried, both Vettel and Leclerc failed to better their times. While Vettel made it through to Q3 by the skin of his teeth, Leclerc was 11th fastest and that is from where he will start the race on Sunday. But that Williams of George Russell which we mentioned earlier will start alongside him in 12th. This is Russell’s best qualifying in F1 with an impressive result after a commendable performance in the wet. Lance Stroll, Daniil Kvyat and Kevin Magnussen will line up behind him in 13th, 14th and 15th, respectively.
In the final session to grab for pole position with 10 drivers now remaining, Max Verstappen got out onto the moist track first starting the session with a 1:29.8. Hamilton found some pace on his second hot lap, beat Verstappen’s time for provisional pole. Hamilton and Verstappen continued to exchange provisional pole over the course of the session.
But on their final hot laps of the session, Hamilton was already on provisional pole. Verstappen was on his final hot lap to disappoint Mercedes, but spin into the penultimate corner ruined his chances. Hamilton improved on his time further to claim pole position for the first-ever Styrian Grand Prix. Verstappen will start alongside him in second, with Sainz in third for McLaren. Bottas will start fourth with Esteban Ocon in fifth for Renault. While Lando Norris was sixth fastest, he will take a 3-place grid penalty carrying over from a yellow flag infringement from Free Practice. This will elevate Alex Albon in the second Red Bull to sixth, with Pierre Gasly starting seventh on the grid for Alpha Tauri ahead of Daniel Ricciardo in eighth for Renault. Norris will start the race from ninth ahead of Sebastian Vettel in 10th place in the fastest Ferrari.
According to the rules, as all drivers used wet weather tyres, there will be no restriction on tyre choice for the top 10 drivers for the race on Sunday. This may allow for some of the drivers in the bottom half of the top 10 to try a different tyre strategy for the race which may make the race quite interesting. If the last race at the same track is anything to go by, the race from where it stands right now has most of the recipe required to be exciting.