Felipe Massa has taken a surprising pole position for the 2014 Austrian Grand Prix. Team-mate Valtteri Bottas will line up 2nd, with Williams securing their first front row lock-out in over a decade. Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton had been setting the pace in the earlier sessions, but after Hamilton’s qualifying unravelled in Q3 he had to settle for 9th place, with Rosberg only managing 3rd.
The Mercedes cars undoubtedly have an advantage in Austria, with 6 of the top 10 powered by the German manufacturer. A major scalp was Sebastian Vettel, who failed to get into Q3 and was out-qualified by team-mate Ricciardo for the 6th time this season.
With qualifying beginning in Austria for the first time in 11 years, it looked as though it would be a battle between the Mercedes cars once again, despite Valtteri Bottas being fastest in the final practice session.
Toro Rosso led the time-sheets early on with rookie Kvyat a second faster than team-mate Vergne. Mercedes soon came along to displace the Italian cars, with Hamilton taking P1 and Rosberg a few tenths behind. Rosberg went on to improve and would have had P1 if Hamilton hadn’t improved himself just before.
A usual trend of drivers in danger of being eliminated heading out on the faster tyre arose once again in the dying minutes of the session, with Grosjean being the first to do so in the Lotus. He jumped from 21st to 7th after his first lap, which opened the floodgates for move improvements. The vast number of improvements put Marussia back down into the drop-out zone after initially being in the top 16. Several drivers chose to remain in the pits so that they didn’t waste a set of the faster tyre compound, including Sebastian Vettel. Sebastian was in real danger of being eliminated in the final few seconds as he was down in 15th, but no one below him had the pace to push him down. The two Sauber drivers of Sutil and Gutierrez joined the Caterham and Marussia drivers in the drop-zone.
Out of Q1:
Nico Hulkenburg was out straight-away when Q2 began and set the first time of the session on the super-soft tyres. Kevin Magnussen took over soon after, with fellow rookie Kvyat also flying at the track.
Mercedes once again took the lead with Hamilton setting a 1:09.0 before Rosberg came in a few thousandths quicker to dip into the 1:08’s. Rosberg decided to come out again at the end of the session as he felt he could go quicker after experiencing under-steer on his fast lap. Hamilton was one of the only drivers not to make a 2nd run, with the gap between 6th and 14th only 3 tenths of a second.
Alonso was pushing hard in his Ferrari to set a decent lap in Q2, so much so that he ran onto the grass at the final corner. He managed to keep the car out of the wall and went on to set a lap good enough to put him into the top 10 shoot-out. Daniel Ricciardo also managed to improve as he put his Red Bull in 9th. Team-mate Sebastian Vettel tried to join him, but the pressure got too much, with the German locking up into turn 3. He’d lost his momentum and was therefore eliminated from Q2 in P13. The two Lotuses, Vergne, Button and Perez joined the champion, with Perez starting 16th after a 5 place penalty for his late crash in Canada with Felipe Massa.
Out of Q2:
|11||Sergio Perez||Force India||1’09.754|
|13||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull||1’09.801|
|15||Jean-Eric Vergne||Toro Rosso||1’10.073|
The final qualifying session saw Mercedes start to struggle on the super-soft tyre compound. After the first of two runs, Bottas was the fastest man. Lewis Hamilton was looking to go faster than him after two purple sectors, but the Briton lost the car into the penultimate corner, meaning that his lap was deleted due after going over the white lines.
Hamilton tried to get the pole position back on his 2nd and final run, but he locked up his rear brakes into turn 2. The lock-up pitched Hamilton into a spin, which put him into the run-off area. The spin meant that Nico Rosberg had to slow down, which meant that he had no chance of improving upon his time. Provisional pole-sitter Bottas was on another lap in his Williams, but the Finn made a mistake at turn 5 and dropped a wheel into the gravel trap. His lap was ruined, but he still had a chance at holding on for his first pole position. That was until veteran team-mate Felipe Massa came along out of nowhere to go a tenth quicker to take his first pole position in 6 years and Williams first front row lock-out since the 2003 German Grand Prix.
Nico Rosberg settled for 3rd place after being unable to capitalise on his team-mates misfortune. Fernando Alonso took 4th place ahead of Daniel Ricciardo; a solid performance for the Red Bull driver at their home track. Two rookies followed next in 6th and 7th, with Magnussen just a tenth faster than Kvyat. It was an impressive run for the Toro Rosso driver, especially since the last time he raced in Austria was when he was 9 years old. Kimi Raikkonen was the last driver to set a time in Q3, with Hamilton and Hulkenburg both failing to do so after having their times deleted.
2014 Austrian Grand Prix grid:
|5||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||1’09.466|
|7||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso||1’09.619|
|9||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||No time|
|10||Nico Hulkenburg||Force India||No time|
|12||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull||1’09.801|
|14||Jean-Eric Vergne||Toro Rosso||1’10.073|
|16||Sergio Perez*||Force India||1’09.754|
*Sergio Perez will start 16th after a 5 place grid penalty for his Canadian Grand Prix crash with Massa.
Felipe Massa, who will start on pole in tomorrow’s race: “I am so happy with what has happened today, with us, our team, it was such a great moment. It is a long time since I last had a pole position so for sure we need to concentrate on the race tomorrow. It is a great moment and I am in the best place to be – first place. After a long time, I hope this is just the beginning of great possibilities. I hope to be in this position again. Williams are back to the top, they are back to fight. I am pleased for me and the team as well.”
Williams’ Valtteri Bottas, who qualified second, his best ever position: “Best position so far in my career – just one place [more] to go. But well done Felipe – it’s a great result for the team. We’ve made progress throughout the year and now we get this result. The hard work is all paying off. It will be a different story tomorrow I think. We have a big, big job to keep the Mercedes cars behind us – and some of the other cars. Ferrari and Red Bull can do well also.”
Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg, who starts third: “I didn’t expect Williams to be ahead of us, but they did a good job and it did not come together for us. I could not put the perfect lap together because of Lewis spinning – I had to lift off, so that definitely cost me today. Third is OK to start from – I’ll have a quick car in the race.”
By Jordan Groves Formula 1 correspondent for RTR Sports Marketing Follow Jordan on twitter at www.twitter.com/jgroves1996