Valtteri Bottas beats Lewis Hamilton to Austrian Grand Prix pole

July 6 2020 , 11:30 am

Mercedes seemed unbeatable as the season re-started after a four-month delay as a result of the coronavirus.

The cars, painted black this year to reflect Mercedes’ support for anti-racism, were half a second clear.

The fastest Ferrari of Charles Leclerc was in seventh as the sheer scale of their lack of performance became clear.

Team-mate Sebastian Vettel did not even make it into the final part of qualifying and the four-time world champion will start 11th.

The size of Mercedes’ advantage over everyone else, how badly wrong Ferrari have got it with this year’s car.

Mercedes have dominated the weekend, the cars quickest by a significant margin in every single session.

The Finn was quicker than Hamilton on the first runs by 0.122 seconds and then, running ahead of the Briton, went off at Turn Five on his final run.

Hamilton was ahead of Bottas on split times at that point. The world champion improved his time over the rest of the lap but lost out on pole position by 0.012secs.

Bottas said: “It feels really good. I have missed this feeling after qualifying, the shakes. It is something special when you push the car to the limit. It feels so good. Our team, amazing job – we seem to be in our own league.”

Hamilton said that the incident with Bottas “didn’t really affect the lap”, adding: “Great job by Valtteri. This is a great job by the team and I am happy to be here.”

As attention turns to the race on Sunday, there will be a question as to whether anyone can challenge Mercedes, and also a focus on F1’s stance against racism, in the wake of the focus on the issue created by protests around the world.

Even before arriving in Austria, Ferrari were downplaying expectations, saying that they had had to redesign their car after discovering problems following pre-season testing and that the first parts of that change would not appear until the Hungarian Grand Prix in two weeks’ time.

But few expected them to be as far off the pace as they were.

Both drivers were in danger of being knocked out at the end of second qualifying but Leclerc managed to scrape through in 10th place.

Even he seemed surprised to be so slow.

“Are we safe?” the 22-year-old asked his engineer at the end of the second session.

“Yes,” he was told. “You are P10.”

“That’s crazy,” Leclerc replied.

In the end, Leclerc managed to make it into seventh on the grid by pulling out all the stops in the final session but the inquiry will be long and questing.

Rival teams pointed out that whereas at last year’s Austrian Grand Prix there were five cars with Ferrari engines in the top 10, while this year only one made it through – and that all those teams had lost more than 0.5secs a lap in performance compared to 2019.

There was a controversial settlement between governing body the FIA and Ferrari over the winter, with the FIA saying that they had doubts about the legality of the Ferrari engine in 2019 but could not prove them.

Rivals were angered that the details of the settlement were kept confidential.

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