Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor Mattpt55
With an hour to go under partly cloudy skies the weather in Spielberg was 17◦ C with a wind blowing 14kph. Sky Sports was doing in depth track analysis with Button whilst American viewers were being treated to a fishing show on a golf course. With Bottas having topped P3 and Massa not far behind, the stage was set for Williams to break through and put paid to the demons that have hounded them this season. A short lap and traffic guaranteed an interesting session was about to get underway on the deceptively challenging and beautifully set Red Bull Ring.
Sadly there appeared to be no home field advantage for Vettel as he failed to make Q3 while Kvyat continued his run of good Quali by making the cut.
But no one could predict that Mercedes would follow misfortune with mistakes in Q3 as Hamilton appeared to suffer mechanical problems once again just as he was set to take the fight to his teammate. Rosberg’s choice to follow Lewis in Q3 cost him massively as the yellows caused by his teammate (oh bitter irony) cost him his last chance to improve. As the world watched Hamilton swap ends in replay with the checkers about to fly Massa managed to nip pole from his teammate and WILLIAMS managed its first lockout since Germany 2003. With Hamilton P9, Vettel P12, Williams leading the way and soaring temperatures tomorrow, the stage is set for the most dramatic race of the season
New rules for Turn 8 and a redefined pit entry line set the tone for the session as any runner with all 4 wheels beyond the white line would have their time disallowed. With the track at only 32◦C it would just be an additional challenge for the teams to meet.
The session developed slowly as the backmarkers began making their way out of the garage at the 17:30 mark. With the shorter lap changing everyone’s timing, the usual flow of the session had some added drama with longer waits in the garage before venturing out. As Mercedes began pulling out with 15 minutes to go the first lap times from the midfield began rolling in with Vergne being the first to top the charts in a 1:11.886. He was followed by Perez, Hulkenberg, Magnussen and Grosjean. At 13 minutes Kvyat did his teammate to take P1, but with the Mercedes on the gas it wasn’t going to be long for this world.
As Hamilton came around to set his first time, Raikkonen went through in 4th and Alonso took P1. As the Mercedes charged round the circuit the backmarkers were already changing onto the Super Softs. Hamilton launched himself into first with Rosberg 0.4 behind. Button sat in P16 after having had his P3 cut short due to overheating brakes. Mercedes came round again and Hamilton improved while Rosberg closed the gap to 0.181 with 8 minutes to go.
Chilton, carrying a penalty from Canada, started the last round of laps by improving to P16, but only for a moment as Button, having gotten on top of his earlier issues, went clear to 13th and Chilton’s teammate Bianchi took over 16th, with Gutierrez sandwiched in between. Hamilton, Rosberg, Massa, Bottas, and Alonso ruled the roost as the midfield became nervous at the times they were seeing from the back and began a wholesale switch to the options to avoid being relegated.
Grosjean was the first to strike, into 7th with the softer tyres, followed by Hulkenberg into 5th. This put the pressure onto Raikkonen who also switched to the options to ensure his progression. Vettel meanwhile was dropping like a stone as he opted to bet on his time and stay in the garage rather than use a set of the options.
At 3 minutes to go, Bianchi, Gutierrez, Chilton, Maldonado, Kobayashi, and Ericsson were all on the outs as Raikkonen took 13th on the options. Sutil looked good to go clear, but his time was disallowed for exceeding the limits as Turn 8 began to bite hard under the cooler conditions.
Button managed 12th as the time dropped below 2 minutes and Raikkonnen took 7th as the second lap looked much more comfortable in the Ferrari. Sutil came round for his last try and couldn’t quite do it and he had one chance left as the checkers dropped. Vettel had sunk to 15th but looked to be safe as first Gutierrez then Ericsson and finally Bianchi all failed to improve with their final chance. Sutil, his tyres shot, boxed to end the session in P17, followed by Gutierrez, Bianchi, Kobayashi, Chilton and Ericsson.
Again there was a lazy start to the session as no one left the garage until several minutes elapsed. It was Force India leading the way, no doubt hoping to get Perez up the ladder as far as possible to make up for the 5 grid spot penalty from Canada. Hulkenberg was the early leader as American telly began showing replays of various cars flying as they went wide through the last turn and encountered the service roads that intersect the grassy runoff area. No sooner did they do this than Alonso made their point by running wide and getting slightly launched himself.
At 7 minutes the rest of the field began to set their times and it was Hamilton taking the first lap, but Rosberg taking the second and P1 followed by Lewis. Bottas, Massa, Magnussen, Kvyat, Alonso, Perez, Ricciardo and Button rounding out the top 10 with Vettel noticeably absent. AS the track settled into a lull with everyone making final preparations to have one more go, there was great speculation about the source of Seb’s woes.
At the 4:30 mark Rosberg complained of understeer and asked to go back out and set another time. AS he headed back out for his last go with the rest of the runners, his teammate elected to stay in the garage and save a set of options for Q3.
As they came around for their final laps, both Vettel and Ricciardo were outside the top 10 and clearly having some struggles with the tyres. With less than a minute to go Vettel hit the line and everyone collectively held their breath to see if this master of one lap qualifying could pull out a decent time at Red Bull’s home race. The answer was a resounding no and as the rest of the cars tailed through the checkers it was to be P13 for Vettel, though Perez’ penalty ensured that Seb would start P12. Also benefitting was Button who complained of being held up by a Lotus, echoing a complaint voiced earlier in the session by Hulkenberg. Still, cold comfort as both drivers failed to make Q3, followed by Maldonado, Vergne, Grosjean and Perez.
And again the waiting game was played as no one stirred from the garage until the 10:30 mark, when Williams decided it was time to take advantage of a clear track. Bottas set the early pace, with a blistering lap and as Hamilton rolled out it was clear there would be more than the pro forma competition between Rosberg and Hamilton. Lewis held the upper hand on new tyres and was well up through S2 but coming into Turn 8 he lost it and went well wide, setting no time. Rosberg on scrubs also had a scruffy lap and was only able to take P2, followed closely by Massa. Alonso, Ricciardo and Magnussen were further back and clearly playing a different game as everyone boxed for new tyres.
The field began to roll with 2 minutes left in the session and the sense of drama was palpable. Rosberg elected to follow Hamilton and as Bottas was in front he was the first to crack as he made a mistake that cost him any chance of improvement. But he was not the only as going into turn 2 Lewis inexplicably turned the car completely around as he downshifted and wound up going off with the rears fully locked. This brought out the yellows and wrecked Nico’s lap bringing Mercedes’ dominance in Quali to an end. As the announcers went into full dramatic froth mode, Felipe Massa put in his best lap of the year to pip his teammate for pole and ensure a lockout for Williams while the TV director was busy showing replays of Lewis’ mishap.
Congratulations to Williams for their front row lockout and Felipe Massa for pole, followed by Bottas, Rosberg, Alonso, Ricciardo, Magnussen Kvyat, Raikkonen, Hamilton and Hulkenberg, whose time was disallowed for exceeding the limits at turn 8. With many unanswered questions from today, fast cars out of position and completely different weather tomorrow it promises to be the most exciting race of the season.
|5||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull|
|7||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso|
|10||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India|
|12||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull|
|14||Jean-Eric Vergne||Toro Rosso|
|16||Sergio Perez||Force India|