Austrian GP Qualifying: Valtteri Bottas claims first pole of F1 2018
Bottas edges out Hamilton on all-Mercedes front row; Vettel demoted from third to sixth; Red Bull off the pace and drivers argue over tactics
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 10/12/18 12:56pm
Valtteri Bottas upstaged title favourites Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel to claim his first pole position of 2018 for the Austrian GP.
In further drama late on Saturday night, Vettel was hit with a three-place penalty by the stewards, demoting the Ferrari driver to sixth.
Twelve months after claiming a pole-victory double at the Red Bull Ring, Bottas was in superb form again on Saturday and led from the front in Q3 after early errors from Mercedes team-mate Hamilton Vettel.
Kimi Raikkonen had provisionally held second place but was shuffled down to a more familiar fourth on the final runs, although the Finn will start from third following Vettel's demotion.
But for circuit owners Red Bull it was a Saturday to largely forget.
A lack of pace compared with their two chief rivals left Max Verstappen fifth in the session and Daniel Ricciardo seventh - the latter behind the impressive Haas of Romain Grosjean - before a disagreement between their drivers over tactics developed during and after Q3.
Ricciardo, usually one of F1's most genial characters, was frustrated with what he appeared to feel was Verstappen's unwillingness to give him a 'tow' on the second Q3 laps: "I'm not too impressed. I'm not happy. We could have been more fair."
But team boss Christian Horner said: "We have a very simple policy here, which we have operated for the last seven years, which is that we alternate from weekend to weekend who drives out of the garage first. That's the only way to be fair from circuit to circuit. This weekend it was Daniel's turn to drive out first and he felt that Max might have been benefiting from that."
Ricciardo later rowed back on criticisms of his team-mate: "If we made it black and white before qualifying, then I could be more upset with him."
But for Grosjean, his outpacing of a Red Bull car represented one of the best performances of the day and one step towards kick-starting the Frenchman's season after a point-less and incident-filled opening eight races.
Capping a fine Saturday for Haas, Kevin Magnussen was eighth ahead of the Renault pair of Carlos Sainz and Nico Hulkenberg at the foot of the top 10.
McLaren qualified 14th and 16th, with Fernando Alonso again their lead car as Stoffel Vandoorne dropped out in Q1.
Bottas supreme as championship rivals stumble
Despite four second-place finishes, Bottas' consistent form this season has arguably not been reflected in his race results so far but Saturday's battle for pole in Austria certainly belonged to him.
His pole-winning lap of 1:03.130 was F1's fastest in terms of lap time since 1985.
"Valtteri deserves it," admitted Hamilton, who came up 0.019s short of the sister Mercedes on his final flyer.
"I can guarantee nobody will be more hungry for the win than me!" said Bottas having experienced several near-misses already this season.
While Hamilton had made an error at Turn Four on his opening Q3 lap, Turn Four caused problems for Vettel and the German was only a provisional sixth at the end of the opening runs.
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He secured third with his final lap, but was still three tenths adrift of the all-silver front row.
"I think there was a little bit more than me but I don't think it was enough pace in hand to be a threat today," said Vettel in the press conference.
"I think we need to make sure that we improve from where we are. I think in qualy, we are little bit behind right now,"
"For tomorrow I think the car should be stronger in the race so it should be a close fight."
How did the rest fare?
McLaren had a marginally better qualifying session than last week in France as Fernando Alonso made Q2, but the Spaniard was still only 14th while under-pressure Vandoorne again failed to clear the first hurdle.
Alonso had been in contention for the top 10 on his final lap but ran wide at the penultimate corner and broke his car's front wing. He therefore starts on row seven, although Alonso will pick up one position as 13th-fastest Charles Leclerc has a five-place grid penalty.
Williams also could point to progress after propping up the grid last Saturday, with Lance Stroll driving strongly to qualify for Q2.
Arguably the most dejected of all Saturday's qualifiers was Force India's Sergio Perez, who found his hitherto frustrating weekend end in Q1. Team-mate Esteban Ocon only just survived the opening cut himself, but went on to secure 11th on the grid.
"It's going to be very difficult to make progress tomorrow," admitted Perez to Sky F1.
Austrian GP Qualifying results
|1) Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes||1:03.130|
|2) Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||+0.019|
|3) Sebastian Vettel **||Ferrari||+0.334|
|4) Kimi Raikkonen||Ferrari||+0.530|
|5) Max Verstappen||Red Bull||+0.710|
|6) Romain Grosjean||Haas||+0.762|
|7) Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||+0.866|
|8) Kevin Magnussen||Haas||+0.921|
|9) Carlos Sainz||Renault||+1.595|
|10) Nico Hulkenberg||Renault||+1.889|
|Knocked out in Q2|
|11) Esteban Ocon||Force India||1:04.845|
|12) Pierre Gasly||Toro Rosso||1:04.874|
|13) Charles Leclerc*||Sauber||1:04.979|
|14) Fernando Alonso||McLaren||1:05.058|
|15) Lance Stroll||Williams||1:05.286|
|Knocked out in Q1|
|16) Stoffel Vandoorne||McLaren||1:05.271|
|17) Sergio Perez||Force India||1:05.279|
|18) Sergey Sirotkin||Williams||1:05.322|
|19) Brendon Hartley||Toro Rosso||1:05.366|
|20) Marcus Ericsson||Sauber||1:05.479|
|** 3-place grid penalty|
|*5-place grid penalty|