But heading into Qualifying, it would seem that Mercedes and Ferrari are looking like the teams to beat heading into the session that look set to gain Pole Position ahead of the race on Sunday. But McLaren, Red Bull Toro Rosso or Force India may spring a surprise and throw a spanner into the works based on their early pace and promise within the Practice sessions.
It was announced before Qualifying that Nico Rosberg would receive a five place grid penalty after changing his gearbox after his incident at Turn 2 in FP3 which saw his left rear suspension fail. Also let’s also not forget that Sebastian Vettel will also take a five place grid penalty after his incident in FP2 yesterday.
Let the battle for Pole Position begin…
In Q1, we saw Nico Rosberg topping the timesheets with a lap time of 1.06.516, Sebastian Vettel was second, Lewis Hamilton was third, Max Verstappen was fourth, Valtteri Bottas was fifth, Kimi Raikkonen was sixth, Felipe Massa was seventh, Daniel Ricciardo was eighth, Pascal Wehrlein was ninth and Nico Hulkenberg rounded off the top ten finshers. At the end of Q1 we lose Kevin Magnussen, Jolyon Palmer, Rio Haryanto, Daniil Kvyat, Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr.
During Q1, we saw Daniil Kvyat suffering a right rear suspension failure going into Turn 8 in the most spectacular fashion after spinning around and going into the pit lane barriers with the rear and front of the car taking the load. This then brought out the red flag as the marshals go to see if Kvyat is okay which he was and also to recover the Toro Rosso safely from the circuit.
As the session restarted with 1:44 seconds remaining, the weekend went from bad to worse for the Toro Rosso team as Carlos Sainz Jr’s Ferrari engine blows up on the run down to Turn 2 straight and is out of qualifying despite finishing Q1 in eleventh place.
In Q2, Hamilton tops the timesheets with a lap time of 1.06.228, Rosberg was second, Vettel was third, Ricciardo was fourth, Verstappen is fifth, Bottas is sixth, Raikkonen is seventh, Massa is eighth, Hulkenberg is ninth and Button is tenth. At the end of Q2, we lose Esteban Gutierrez, Pascal Wehrlein, Romain Grosjean, Fernando Alonso, Carlos Sainz Jr and Sergio Perez.
The battle for Pole Position is on…
At the end of Q3, Hamilton took Pole Position for the Austrian GP, the fifth of the season with a lap time of 1.07.922, Rosberg finished in second place 0.543 seconds behind Hamilton, Hulkenberg finished in third place 1.363 seconds behind Hamilton, Vettel finished in fourth place 1.859 seconds behind Hamilton and Button was fifth place 1.978 seconds behind Hamilton.
Raikkonen ended the session in sixth place 1.979 seconds behind Hamilton, Ricciardo finished in seventh place 2.058 seconds behind Hamilton, Bottas finished in eight place 2.518 seconds behind Hamilton, Verstappen finished in ninth place 3.231 seconds behind Hamilton and Massa finished in tenth place 4.055 seconds behind Hamilton.
It would seem that Mercedes genuinely has the pace to challenge for the race win again this weekend despite their form in Qualifying. Both of the Mercedes drivers seem to have the cars underneath them to do this and have been consistent and fast throughout every session so far this weekend; even if Hamilton has a challenge on his hands to get a result this weekend.
You cannot discount Ricciardo, Verstappen or Vettel even to be challenging also for the race win and could also be the dark horses to take the win away from Mercedes (and also Ferrari in Mercedes’ case) that could see gaining some points on their rivals to kick start their Constructors Championship.
Hulkenberg, Button and Raikkonen could also have a decent race and pick up some much needed points for their respective teams. Will it rain? I do not know. Who will win the Grand Prix on Sunday? I really don’t know.
With the issue of the “yellow sausage kerbs” now being very heightened, as we understand at the moment, the “sausage yellow kerbs” have been made and introduced into the sport by the FIA to deter the drivers from pushing the track limits. But as Mercedes, Toro Rosso and Red Bull have suffered these failures over the course of the weekend; we may see changes being implemented before the race on Sunday for safety reasons.
But let’s see what happens tomorrow on the Speilberg circuit on race day on Sunday…