Valterri Bottas pips Lewis Hamilton to pole in Austria
Defending world champion dominates practice but is edged by Mercedes teammate
Lewis Hamilton (R) congratulates Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas. Photograph: Leonhard Foeger/Getty/AFP
World champion Hamilton had dominated the weekend at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, topping every practice session.
But Bottas delivered when it mattered most to prevent his Mercedes team-mate from opening the defence of his title with top slot on the grid.
The Finn ran off the road on his final lap, but despite Hamilton improving with his last throw of the dice, it is Bottas who will line up first.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen finished third, with young Briton Lando Norris delivering the best performance of his career to qualify fourth for McLaren.
Ferrari headed into the new campaign fearing they would be trailing the big-hitting teams. And their dread was confirmed here when Sebastian Vettel was eliminated from the second phase of qualifying.
The four-time world champion, who will be moved on by the Scuderia at the end of the year, qualified only 11th, 1.2 seconds off the pace. His team-mate Charles Leclerc snuck through to the top-10 shootout but will line up only seventh.
Ferrari will bring a revised package to the third round in Hungary later this month, but this could be a long slog for the Italian team which last won a drivers’ championship way back in 2007.
In contrast, the Mercedes cars, sporting an all-black livery this year in the team’s defiant message against racism, continue to be the class of the field in the first global sporting event of the Covid-19 era.
The grid’s all-conquering team were provided with a major boost in the early hours of Saturday morning after they survived a Red Bull protest against their car.
Following a six-hour stewards’ investigation, Formula One’s sporting federation, the FIA, gave Mercedes the green light to continue using their controversial Dual-Axis Steering (DAS) system.
Here, their two drivers finished an eye-watering half-a-second clear of anyone else.
McLaren emerged from the doldrums last season to finish fourth in the constructors’ championship and the British team will be delighted with their start here.
Despite messing up his first lap in the shootout, the 20-year-old Norris, in just his second season in the sport, excelled to take fourth, four places ahead of his team-mate Carlos Sainz who is replacing Vettel at Ferrari in 2021. Alex Albon was fifth for Red Bull, with Racing Point’s Sergio Perez sixth.