It was a solid qualifying session for the Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team as Lewis and George claimed P5 and P6 – with grid penalties seeing them start P3 and P4 tomorrow.
Lewis Hamilton qualified P5 in a strong qualifying session but was unable to improve on his final run after a compromised out-lap saw him fail to improve his time.
George Russell took P6 in the session after trying a “prep lap” on his first Q3 run, then improving on his final effort. During the session, both used and new tyres set competitive times, hence the unusual experiment with his run profile in Q3.
Both drivers will be promoted to the second row of tomorrow’s grid because of penalties for drivers who qualified ahead.
‘That was a very difficult qualifying session. I felt so optimistic all weekend: the car had been feeling good and everyone back at the factory worked so hard to bring the upgrade, so I was hopeful that we were going to be much closer than we are. Once we got to qualifying, I don’t know if it’s because temperatures dropped, or the wind picked up, but the car was such a handful suddenly and that made it hard to put the laps together, especially in the final sector. Looking to the race, I think we may be able to keep up with the cars in front – especially through the corners – but they have simply got more baseline pace than us. We are still pushing hard, so it’s frustrating not to be closing down that gap to pole, but we will be giving it everything we’ve got tomorrow.’
‘It has been a difficult weekend for me, and I was off the pace in all the other sessions, so I’m pleased to be in a more normal position for qualifying. Six tenths to pole is a smaller gap than usual for us on Saturday, and we did bring some updates here which are working, so I’m excited to see what happens tomorrow. It will be a race of high tyre degradation and a lot of different strategic options in play, and I think the race will be won and lost in the choices we make – we will need to be dynamic in how we react. Ferrari looked strong yesterday and I think we looked reasonable to them and Red Bull on the long runs, so I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do from the second row.’
‘That was a decent session for us. I think we saw that the last update of the season is working well and there was a lap in the car that could have been up to three tenths of a second faster – but this car is still so tricky to drive, and that’s how it goes sometimes. But overall, the car is working pretty well and we could have been closer to pole – so I think we can be part of some fun games up front tomorrow. Today is a sad day, though, with the news of the death of Dietrich Mateschitz. He was one of the most incredible entrepreneurs in the world – he created an energy drinks market that simply didn’t exist before him and built one of the best brands in the world. This sport owes him so much, not just for what he created in Spielberg but also for the two teams he owned and developed. We send our deepest condolences to his family and friends.’
‘We’ve been struggling a bit in the windier conditions today, no doubt that’s affected everyone but there are a few corners that were really well-balanced yesterday that today we couldn’t seem to find a setup to compensate for the increased wind strength. The morning session ran without issue and the drivers were just getting used to that increased tailwind through the Esses which was making the car a bit less predictable. Qualifying was a disappointment given that we showed good promise at times, we were just struggling to put the laps together when it counted. We could also have executed the final session better, we’d decided to do a preparation lap on George’s first run which knocked on to our final runs causing us to leave a bit late. That meant Lewis was stuck at the back and lost a bit of tyre temperature having to go slowly in the final few corners starting his lap. We will at least inherit a couple of places due to Sergio’s and Charles’ penalties which puts both cars on the second row. It’s unlikely to be a straightforward race, the degradation has been high this weekend so no doubt a fair bit of tyre management will be required. We’ve also seen that our race pace is almost always better than qualifying so hopefully this will be one where we can stick with the front group and look for the opportunities as the degradation sets in and the first stops come around.’