Bottas hangs on to Austria pole ahead of Hamilton despite big spin on his final lap; McLaren’s Norris splits Red Bulls with fourth, but Ferrari endure a desperate start to season with Vettel out in Q2
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 04/07/20 4:00pm
Valtteri Bottas beat Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton to the first pole position of F1’s delayed 2020 season at the Austrian GP despite a big error on his final lap.
But Ferrari’s fears about their competitiveness at the start of the new season were laid bare as Charles Leclerc qualified only seventh and Sebastian Vettel was knocked out in Q2.
Lando Norris took a stunning fourth for McLaren, just behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
Bottas claimed the 12th pole of his career despite running onto the gravel and grass at Turn Five on his final lap in the new all-black Mercedes as he went head-to-head with Hamilton in a Mercedes-dominated session.
It ruined the Finn’s final attempt but Hamilton, despite his team-mate’s mistake, was not quite able to make up the time from the opening runs and wound up 0.012s adrift around the fast but technical Red Bull Ring.
“I’ve obviously been preparing for this for a long time and it feels so good. Our team have done an amazing job, we seem to be in our own league,” said Bottas, who also beat Hamilton to pole in Austria in 2017-2018.
“I’m so impressed. It’s truly an amazing car to drive.”
Hamilton said: “Great job by Valtteri, this is a great start to the season. I think we show year on year that we continue to be the best team, we’re constantly pushing the boundaries and there’s not really any politics within the team.”
Mercedes’ advantage over the field on the shortest lap of the year, in terms of lap time, was huge – 0.8 seconds over third-placed Verstappen alone.
But Verstappen and Red Bull do have a potential strategic advantage for Sunday’s race after getting through to Q3 on the slower medium tyres – the compound he will now start the GP on.
Mercedes and the rest of the top 10 will start on the faster but less durable soft compound.
That includes Lando Norris, who was surely the star of qualifying by claiming a brilliant career-best fourth for ever-improving McLaren.
The 20-year-old Briton outqualified Alex Albon in the second Red Bull and both Racing Point cars, the team who had been hotly tipped to at least head the midfield this weekend.
Sergio Perez did match Albon’s time but will start behind the Red Bull on the fourth row as he set the lap later in the session than his rival.
Leclerc will head up row four alongside Carlos Sainz in the second McLaren, with Racing Point’s Lance Stroll and the lead Renault of Daniel Ricciardo rounding out the top 10.
Ferrari endure qualifying nightmare
One year on from taking pole at the Red Bull Ring and Ferrari’s difficulties at the start of the new season became starkly clear during the course of Saturday’s running.
A difficult pre-season with the new SF1000 had already forced the team to change direction with the development of the car.
But with a big upgrade not arriving until two weeks’ time at the Hungarian GP, Ferrari have to navigate the consecutive races in Austria with essentially the package they finished testing with four months ago.
Vettel’s swansong at the team will begin from 11th on the grid.
“Of course it’s a surprise, we thought we had a little bit more in hand but it seems the others were probably running a little bit more fuel or were more conservative in practice,” said Vettel, who is leaving the team at the end of the season.
“I wasn’t so happy with the car, more oversteer in entry than I would like.
“But we will see, I think tomorrow is a different picture. It’s a long race, I think in race trim we are always better and we will try to make some good ground and score some good points.”
Austrian GP Qualifying Top 10
1. Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes
2. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
3. Max Verstappen, Red Bull
4. Lando Norris, McLaren
5. Alexander Albon, Red Bull
6. Sergio Perez, Racing Point
7. Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
8. Carlos Sainz, McLaren
9. Lance Stroll, Racing Point
10. Daniel Ricciardo, Renault
Out in Q2
11. Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari
12. Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri
13. Daniil Kvyat, AlphaTauri
14. Esteban Ocon, Renault
15. Romain Grosjean, Haas
Out in Q1
16. Kevin Magnussen, Haas
17. George Russell, Williams
18. Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo
19. Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo
20. Nicholas Latifi, Williams
The new Formula 1 season is underway Sky Sports F1 with the Austrian GP. Sunday’s race starts at 2.10pm. Find out more & subscribe.