What the teams said – Qualifying in Austria
After topping all three practice sessions, all eyes were on Hamilton when qualifying began. But it was Bottas who set the timing screens alight in Q2 and who grabbed the initiative around a track he normally goes well at with a scintillating first lap in Q3. Roll on the final flying laps and this time the Finn overcooked it and spun off across the grass, but Hamilton’s improvement wasn’t enough to deny the Finn the first pole of the season by an agonisingly close margin. With just 0.012s between them, it is all to play for tomorrow.
Valtteri Bottas - 1st, 1:02.939
"This feels really good. I missed this feeling - I was shaking after qualifying. It's something really special to be able to push the car to its limits. We've been preparing for this for such a long time now and you never now where you really stand. But our team did such an amazing job, it's very impressive to see. It's still very early days, this was only the very first qualifying session of the season, but I'm so impressed by what our team has been able to achieve. A big thank you to everyone in the team, both here at the track and back home at the factories - this is a truly amazing car to drive. I'm very happy with the result today, but it's tomorrow that counts, so we need to keep our heads down and keep working hard."
Lewis Hamilton, 2nd, 1:02.951
"Great job by Valtteri today and a great start to the season overall for the team. On my last lap in Q3, there was a big puff of dust when I came out in Turn 4 and at first, I didn't know where the car was that had gotten off the track. But then I managed to see that Valtteri was just about to come back on the track and so fortunately it didn't really affect my lap; in the end, he kept his position and so did I. This team shows year on year of what it is capable of; we continue to set new standards. I think it's because we're open-minded, we're current with the times. We're always learning from each other and we're always pushing the boundaries together. We're united as a team, there aren't really any politics within this group, and we push together. I think that's why we've come back strong again this year. Now we need to show that strength again tomorrow in the race."
Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
"I'm extremely happy with this front-row lockout for the first race of the season. The team and the car - both Power Unit and chassis - worked really well today. Now it's about bringing that result home tomorrow which will be very challenging. It may not look that difficult based on today's single lap results, but Verstappen's offset tyre strategy was clever as he will be able to go much longer on the Medium tyres in the race. We considered the offset strategy as well; but there's a risk to lose time at the start. We think a one-stop strategy can work here nonetheless, so then the harder tyre isn't necessarily an advantage. Given that Verstappen was lacking a little bit of single lap pace, going out in Q2 on the Mediums was the right thing to do. The temperatures are forecasted to be much higher tomorrow which will add to the challenge. We hope for strong reliability tomorrow and that our pace is good enough to be in front. I'm looking forward to the fight."
Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director
"A really great result for the whole Mercedes team and it's very satisfying to see that the chassis and Power Unit are working so well on a track that has caused us some headaches in the past. The day hasn't been completely straightforward; we had a pretty good FP3 session but had to pull Valtteri's car apart before qualifying to replace an electrical loom in the gearbox. It's always a bit unsettling when the car is in pieces running up to qualifying, but the mechanics did a great job preparing it and we were ready to run at the start. It's hard to find a decent gap in the first session here in Austria, as there are twenty cars all trying to do the same on a very short lap. The second and third sessions were a bit easier to manage and the pace in the final session was good. This is normally a circuit that compresses the field so it's great to start from the front. It's going to be an interesting race tomorrow. The track and ambient temperatures are much higher than on Friday which will make life harder for the tyres. We've also got Max starting on the Medium compounds which will go a bit further than our Softs, but in terms of pace, we've not seen much difference between the tyres."
A slightly mixed qualifying for the team at their home race. Albon hit reliability issues and was lucky to make it out of Q1 after only running the once. He also lost time on his final run in Q3 thanks to the yellow flags that caught many out, and starts fifth. Verstappen opted for a different strategy to the rest when he ran medium tyres in Q2 and thus is the only top 10 starter on that compound. After looking to be pushing Mercedes close, the Dutchman wound up half a second adrift in third – but does say the RB16 comes alive in race trim…
Max Verstappen, 3rd, 1:03.477
“I think third on the grid is a good start, of course I would have liked to fight for pole position but that wasn’t possible today. On a single lap around this track we have never been the strongest but there are things we can for sure improve moving into qualifying next weekend. Tomorrow is a different day and we have a different strategy starting on the medium tyres compared to everyone else around us on the soft. It’s going to be warmer as well so hopefully that will also work to our advantage. That doesn’t mean that Mercedes are going to be slow, but hopefully it will close the gap a little bit. First we need to have a good start as I don’t want to do the same as last year and then we will do everything we can to fight for the win. It’s a shame that the fans are not here at our home track as they really help to make a good atmosphere but we’ll try to make it an exciting race for everyone watching on TV.”
Alex Albon, 5th, 1:03.868
“It feels good to be back in a qualifying session and I enjoyed it, but I’m not overly happy with my result. I struggled a bit at the beginning but by the end I was ok. We just weren’t able to maximise it today. On the first run in Q3 I was too far behind the pack and although it’s not Monza, it’s similar here in that a slipstream is worth a good chunk of time, but there was some time in my driving too. On my second Q3 run we got yellow flags after Bottas went off so that wasn’t ideal but P5 on the grid isn’t too bad and let’s see how our race pace is tomorrow.”
Christian Horner, Team Principal
“Mercedes gave a dominant performance today, but it was also a positive start for us, with Max qualifying in P3 and Alex in P5. We made a brave strategy decision resulting in Max being the only driver in the top ten to start on the medium tyre, which provides us with many strategic options for the race. The temperatures are also due to increase tomorrow which helped us take the win last year so that gives us confidence to take the fight to Mercedes. The entire Team are excited to be back racing and it couldn’t be better starting the season at our home track. Let’s see what tomorrow brings but it is shaping up to be a great race.”
McLaren were one team that definitely kept their true hand to themselves throughout practice. Come qualifying and both cars made it to Q3, but it was Norris who impressed the most with his best ever qualifying performance. Fourth is decent enough, but with the midfield so tight, to be fourth by over two tenths to those behind speaks for itself. As for Sainz, his final lap was another compromised by yellow flags and he will line up alongside his team mate for next year.
Carlos Sainz, 8th, 1:03.971
“It’s been a very good day for the team. Congrats! We can be happy with the performance of the car after winter testing. It’s good to be fighting in the top 10 already in the first weekend, so very happy about that. Personally, I’ve been struggling a bit the whole weekend, not finding the right balance for certain corners, and I couldn’t put together the final lap I was aiming for. Otherwise I think P8 is not a bad starting position for tomorrow and we’ll definitely be fighting for the first points of the season.”
Lando Norris, 4th, 1:03.626
“I’m very happy, this was my best qualifying position ever, so it’s a big achievement for myself but also for the team. It’s the best team result for six years, so it’s good to see the progress we’ve made. However, this result doesn’t mean we’ve made it, we’ve got to keep working hard. That’s what we’ve been doing this whole weekend, we keep chipping away. We’ve got a good starting position for tomorrow, so I’m happy with that — a good qualifying throughout. I was confident, even though it didn’t always look like we were the third-best team. To put it all together come Q3, and especially on the second run, made me happy. I think it’s good for us as a team but tomorrow’s a different day and we’ll still have to work hard during the race.”
Andrea Stella, Racing Director
“This was a great result for the entire team today. It's been a real boost for everyone after the challenges we've been through since Australia. We’ve worked hard and focused on the job, and I’m really proud of everyone here and back at base in Woking. It's only one qualifying result and we know we still have a long way to go to get back to where we want to be. Therefore it's important to keep our heads down and keep pushing, but the team executed well today and this gives us a strong base to build on.
“Congratulations to both our drivers for a good day’s work.
“Carlos progressed well through the sessions and he had the pace to be higher than P8. Unfortunately we didn’t fully get the last lap in.
“Lando did a great job throughout qualifying, and did a final great lap when it mattered to deliver his P4 time, giving us our best qualifying performance for six years.
“Of course, we have our first race of 2020 ahead of us tomorrow which is another story and will bring new challenges, but for today the whole team can be very satisfied with our achievement. We will intensively prepare as always and look forward to a good race tomorrow.”
The Scuderia upped the ante in final practice after a lacklustre Friday and looked to be closing the gap in final practice. But qualifying did not go well for the team, with Vettel making a mistake on his final run in Q2 to exit in 11th place, and Leclerc only scraping through by the skin of his teeth. After grabbing pole here last season, the Monegasque driver wound up seventh, nearly a second off P1. The good news? The race pace of the SF1000 looks more competitive.
Sebastian Vettel, 11th, 1:04.206
"I didn't feel so confident with the car towards the end of the session, but the race is tomorrow and that’s the part of the weekend we look forward to the most. So, we will see what we can learn from today to improve for tomorrow. Our car was not quick enough and the balance was not ideal. I think we were losing a bit on the straights with too much drag, but in some corners we are very competitive.
"For sure we would have liked to be faster, but P11 puts us in a good spot for the race, with a free tyre choice allowing us to do something different with the strategy, which could be important as it is meant to be much hotter tomorrow. It’s not ideal and I am not fully happy and we clearly did not have as much in hand as the others, but our race pace should be more competitive."
Charles Leclerc, 7th, 1:03.923
"Seventh place is the best we could do today. Of course it’s not where we want to be but we are just not quick enough, so we need to work hard and try to catch up. There’s still a bit of performance we can get here and there and we need to put everything together, getting the best out of the package we have, because for now it’s all we’ve got. The smallest detail is very important as everyone is very close now.
"It was a difficult day but at least now we know where we are. As a team all we can do is cheer up and find the positive in all of this, even though it’s not easy. We need to work all together in a constructive way and try to do the best job possible to improve things in the next few races. We should keep our moral up and be motivated and just work to improve. This is the way forward to get out of these hard times. The balance of the car is quite good but it’s the overall performance which is still not good enough.
"As for the race, anything can happen and having a good strategy with the right tyre management, maybe we can score some good points."
Mattia Binotto, Team Principal
"There’s no point denying that was a disappointing qualifying session. We knew the start of the season would be difficult for us and today’s result certainly confirmed that to be the case, even more so than we had expected. We have to analyse very carefully every aspect of our performance and compare it to the opposition, trying to understand why there is this gap. Now, we will prepare as well as possible for tomorrow’s race, which will be tough with plenty of unknown factors, more so than usual, it being the first of this strange season. We will carry out our tasks to the best of our ability, trying to get everything out of the package we have here. It's pointless to predict where we might finish and we must just try and score as many points as possible.
"At least Saturday in Spielberg has ended on a positive note for us as three of our Ferrari Driver Academy drivers made a clean sweep of the podium places in the first Formula 2 race of the season. Congratulations to Callum Ilott on taking his first win in this very competitive category and well done to second and third placed Marcus Armstrong and Robert Shwartzman, both of them on their F2 debut. Giuliano Alesi did well to fight his way up the order to sixth and Mick Schumacher was also a contender, in the battle for the win for two thirds of the race."
After looking the pick of the midfield, it was no surprise that the pink cars both made it to Q3 comfortably. Once there Stroll opted for just the one run, so missed the drama at the end. Perez went out twice and ended up a credible sixth, albeit unluckily on exactly the same time as Albon ahead in fifth. But the gap to the McLaren of Norris in fourth might be a surprise for the team, who weren’t quite the ‘best of the rest.’
Sergio Perez, 6th, 1:03.868
“I’m happy with sixth on the grid: I matched Albon for fifth, but unfortunately he set the lap before me! It was a good performance by the team - the car has been consistent and is working well, and it was a good lap in Q3. I’m confident for tomorrow because I think our race pace should be strong, and we’ll be in the mix to fight for points, but we’ll also see how all the other teams stack up. The first lap is always tricky here, but if we can keep it clean and tidy I think we can gain some ground through the first few corners. It’s such a buzz to be back racing and let’s see what we can do tomorrow.”
Lance Stroll, 9th, 1:04.029
“It was a positive qualifying for the team and both cars in Q3 is a great way to start the season. The team has done a strong job over the winter to develop a competitive car. My Q3 lap was clean, and it was a good shot, but there’s always room for improvement to optimise the lap. It’s really tight here between all the cars, so a couple of tenths makes a big difference and can cost you as many as five or six places. That’s what the fans back home want to see, as well as the drivers. We’re in a good position to score points in tomorrow’s race and it’s going to be an exciting one.”
Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal & CEO
“It’s great to be trackside again and today’s qualifying session was the first proper chance to see just where we sit relative to our competition. After promising form in practice, we knew that getting both cars in Q3 was achievable, so it’s satisfying to be lining up in sixth and ninth for tomorrow’s race. Checo and Lance were tidy and consistent throughout the session – just what’s needed on such a short lap where a few tenths can cost you a handful of positions on the grid. I believe we’ve also got a competitive race car for tomorrow – based on the data from the long runs we did in second practice. The weather forecast suggests hotter temperatures tomorrow, but I think we’ve put ourselves in a good position to race for points with both cars.”
Ocon missed more running in final practice after suffering with a repeat of yesterday’s bargeboard problems. The Frenchman didn’t seem as comfortable in the R.S.20 as his team mate, and exited in Q2. Ricciardo made it to the top 10 shootout and opted for just the one run. A risky strategy that didn’t pay off when he was forced to lift for the yellow flags after Bottas spun off. Starting on used tyres, he could be vulnerable to the Ferrari of Vettel behind.
Esteban Ocon, 14th, 1:04.643
“I’m not very satisfied with today as it’s not what we wanted to achieve. I know we could have done better with what we had in hand. There were just a few little details that we didn’t get right. I want to review what happened as the gap to where I want to be is pretty big. We’ll take a look and keep working hard. It wasn’t enough today, but tomorrow we’ll aim to come back stronger.”
Daniel Ricciardo, 10th, 1:04.239
“I had to lift on the last run with the yellow flag. We know we could have been better than tenth as we’ve shown that all weekend. To be in Q3 is positive for us, especially after last year here. It’s a sign of more progress. Things like this are out of what you can control, so it’s a bit frustrating but it happens. We’ll have to go and do it tomorrow and look to push towards the top eight if not, even higher. I’m looking forward to the lights going out tomorrow!"
Ciaron Pilbeam, Chief Race Engineer
“The end result wasn’t quite what we were targeting but, nevertheless, we’re in a position to contend for points tomorrow, which is when it counts. The yellow flag for Daniel in Q3 on his push lap on new tyres meant he had to lift, and it was impossible for him to improve his lap time. For Esteban it was a case of not piecing it all together and he also missed out on a tow on his Q2 lap, which likely cost him a little bit of time. We have some options on strategy to assess for tomorrow.”
Another team that had looked to be struggling for pace, AlphaTauri got both cars into Q2 which was no mean feat. Gasly took the intra-team spoils by finishing 12th, a tenth ahead of his team mate. With free tyre choice, points are not out of sight for these two.
Pierre Gasly, 12th, 1:04.305
“I’m pleased with my result today. After yesterday’s practice sessions we might have expected that it was not going to be an easy qualifying for us today, but overnight we managed to make some good improvements to the car. I think we can be happy with both cars in Q2. At the moment that’s where we are, but we have a free choice of tyres and so many things can happen during a race, so hopefully this will give us a good opportunity to fight for points tomorrow. The target is always the same and we’ll push as much as we can to get a good result here at Red Bull’s home race.”
Daniil Kvyat, 13th, 1:04.431
“It’s hard to know what to expect for the race, as today’s quali is about a single lap and tomorrow it’s 71. Qualifying was ok, although to be honest my laps weren’t super tidy and I left some lap time on the table, because of a couple of mistakes. But the pace was there considering that we were unhappy yesterday in FP1 and worked hard to improve the car from then on. We got just about everything out of the car this afternoon. We lack a couple of tenths here, but historically this track has always been a bit tricky for us and we are already in better shape than we were here last year. We are starting from a position where we can fight for some points and have a strong clean race.”
Jody Egginton, Technical Director
“Friday was in some respects more difficult than it should have been, but the guys took a few lessons on board and reacted positively ahead of today and as a result extracted more from our car. The set-up changes made overnight on both sides of the garage were effective, with both cars showing balance improvements during FP3 and the two drivers making good use of these changes to set some more representative times in this morning’s session. We felt qualifying was going to be close. Both cars navigated Q1 without too much fuss and the first runs in Q2 were fine. However, we did not manage to take the next step in the final runs with either driver in Q2 in what was a very tight midfield. We were unable to make the cut for Q3 on this occasion, ending qualifying in 12th and 13th which is disappointing but has also highlighted the primary areas in which we need to improve our package. Our focus now switches back to preparations for the race and, with the qualifying positions providing us with some useful strategy options, we will be looking to take advantage of any opportunities. We are all very much looking forward to getting back down to the business of going racing tomorrow in what we expect will be an exciting race.”
Toyoharu Tanabe, Honda F1 Technical Director
“This first qualifying of 2020 produced some surprises. We have Max on row 2 and Alex on row 3, which is a positive result. However, the time gap to the quickest was not that small. But with Max starting on the medium tyres and our race pace that we had in free practice looking encouraging, we can hope to have a good race tomorrow. AlphaTauri managed to improve the car from yesterday and 12 and 13 on the grid is encouraging. It would be nice if the team could score points in the debut event with its new name. Our PU worked fine in all four cars so far this weekend and we look forward to a good race, knowing that the competition looks very close.”
Haas had struggled for pace throughout the weekend so it was no surprise that they lost a car in Q1, with Grosjean just winning the intra-team battle by 0.070s. The Frenchman could go no further than Q2 though, winding up in 15th place. It could be a long race for the team tomorrow but anything they learn can be used next weekend with Austria playing host to the first two races of the season.
Romain Grosjean, 15th, 1:04.691
“We knew going into the session that our qualifying pace wasn’t as good as we’d hoped for, but it’s somewhere in line with what we saw from pre-season testing. The positive is that the race pace seems to be better than qualifying, so I’m obviously hopeful that tomorrow we can be fighting and have some fun. There’s clearly work to be done on the car to enable us to go faster, but we’ve seen some encouraging things too. We’ll keep working, put our heads down, and we’ll see how we go.”
Kevin Magnussen, 16th, 1:05.164
“We haven’t qualified where we thought we would be. I had slightly higher hopes, and I know the team had. It’s a bit disappointing to find ourselves out in Q1 but that was the pace we had. P16 is obviously not fantastic. I did my best, I felt like I did a decent lap, but it’s tricky to be out already. At the moment it looks like the other teams have found more than we have. I know we’ve been working to improve our car. We’ll continue to work hard on that but for now our focus is on tomorrow. Our race pace yesterday didn’t look terrible in comparison to our qualifying pace. We definitely need a bit more; we need to find it. I’m hopeful and I’m going to be doing my best to get something out of the race.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“Following the first free practices of the season, I think we were somewhat prepared for this. Our aim was to get out of Q1 and into Q2. We did it with one car, so half of the mission was accomplished. We’ve got more work to do to get more out of the car. Everybody has worked very hard after four months of shutdown, and not an easy shutdown for people. Everybody is very motivated though, and we’ve just got to deal with what we’ve got now and try to get better. We obviously need to wait for tomorrow to find our real race pace. We’re looking forward to at least being better than last year, as back then we were afraid of going racing – on a normal day we just fell back. Our race pace in Friday practice was decent. The proof is in the pudding, and the pudding is being served tomorrow.”
Alfa started last season brightly but roll on 2020 and they are sadly lagging towards the back of the field. A mistake from Giovinazzi on his final flying run didn’t help matters, but in truth they didn’t have the pace to make Q2. After a double points finish here last season, can they salvage anything tomorrow?
Kimi Raikkonen, 19th, 1:05.224
“We kind of expected a difficult day but that’s where we seem to be right now. We knew we would be on the limit, and finding a bit of traffic on my final lap did it for me. We have to find a way to regain our competitiveness against our rivals: it’s only the first race, we are not where we want to be but we have the time to improve. Tomorrow we will try to recover a good result: we have nothing to lose so we’ll just go out and try to do the best we can.”
Antonio Giovinazzi, 18th, 1:05.175
“Not the start we wanted, but we have to focus on ways to make it better tomorrow. I pushed really hard on my final lap, I was on the limit and unfortunately I made a small mistake: I knew I had to try something special but it didn’t work out. We can hopefully make up some ground in the race: I think we are a bit stronger in the long run pace so if we get the strategy calls right and keep out of trouble in the opening laps, we can have some confidence in gaining some places as the race progresses.”
Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal
“It’s been a challenging start to the weekend and we will have our work cut out in tomorrow’s race. We needed things to go our way and unfortunately we hit trouble with both cars, Kimi finding traffic on his flying lap and Antonio going wide when he was improving his time. It’s definitely not where we wanted to be on the grid and not ideal when looking at tomorrow, but we will need to be at our best to move up and recover a good result.”
Latifi was the first to blot his copybook in FP3, getting on the high kerbs and losing control of his FW43. The rookie lost valuable running time as a result, and it showed in qualifying where he wound up propping up the field. Russell seemed happier with the balance of his Williams and he came closer to making his first Q2 appearance, missing out by just 0.173s in a quietly encouraging show for the team.
George Russell, 17th, 1:05.167
"Today has exceeded my expectations, I knew we had made a step forward, but I didn’t think we would be in this position. Unfortunately, we missed the slipstream that we were aiming for on my previous lap, that cost me about two tenths, but it was definitely a very good effort. We have made a big step forward, and this is the closest we have been on pure pace. The team did a really good job to get the most out of the car so let’s see what we can do tomorrow."
Nicholas Latifi, 20th, 1:05.757
"I am pleased with my first qualifying session considering how this morning went. I made a silly mistake in FP3 and I was unable to get the laps in to fully prepare myself for qualifying. But I am pretty happy with the pace, and more so because I know there is some time left in me and some time that we can find with the car. We have to go from there and hopefully we have a clean race tomorrow."
Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance
"The car showed reasonable pace in the morning session following some work overnight. It was a shame for Nicholas that he lost track time following a spin which damaged the front wing. However, the mechanics were able to repair the car in time for qualifying and Nicholas was able to see the data from George’s car to understand the improvements made since FP2.
"Qualifying was a relatively calm affair with both cars completing their planned runs. Nicholas completed a slightly extended first run as he made up for the time lost in the morning. His final run was very assured, and today’s experience will be very valuable when we repeat the exercise again in one week’s time. George built on some strong qualifying performances last year to execute a well-planned and well-judged session during which he has able to beat both Alfa Romeos and come very close to qualifying for Q2.
"Tomorrow will be a tough fight; however, we are looking forward to a close race with the Alfa Romeos and the Haas cars. It is great to be back at the track and with a car that we can compete with. We have a long way to go but today marks a good first step back towards the midfield."
Mario Isola, Head of F1 and Car Racing
"Bottas's pole position time set the all-time track record at the Red Bull Ring today, underlining that the cars have evolved while this year's P Zero tyre range stays the same as 2019. The most interesting strategic moment from qualifying was Verstappen's decision to start the race on the medium tyre, which should allow him to plan a more flexible strategy – with potentially a longer first stint than his rivals. This could be crucial to the race outcome. As expected with a short lap and tightly-matched field, we saw mostly the soft tyre used from start to finish of qualifying. Each team needed to be sure to get the most out of their cars, given how close the margins were. But in the race tomorrow, all three compounds should have an important role to play."