F1 – Austrian GP – Qualifying
Hallo, MiniFans! Second weekend of the double header is here and the tune hasn’t really changed much, or so it seemed in free practice. The biggest difference when comparing both racing weekends is the softer compounds chosen by Pirelli for the Austrian GP. So far, it’s the only double header slotted in the calendar, but that’s still susceptible to changes.
As per usual, Haas was the first team on track in a very sunny and warm day. After the grid had been scolded earlier during the weekend by race direction about them slowing down excessively to create a gap for their fastest laps, Mercedes contacted them to make sure whether they’d been doing it correctly after the new instructions. Once Masi himself confirmed it, a variety of drivers started pulling in fastest laps and sitting pretty on top of the timing tower for a few seconds, when another driver would improve the time. At least until Verstappen set his time and became untouchable. But, as it always happens in Q1, the interest was focused around fifteenth place and below.
With one stint to go, two of the spots were the ones that never change. Both Haas occupied the last two places, while Gasly’s deleted lap times due to track limits left him just in front of them. Another surprising one was Ocon, whose teammate Alonso was up in third and didn’t even entertain the idea of going out again. The Frenchman, however, did need one more stint to try and get through, but it wasn’t a fruitful attempt. Another pair of drivers with a surprising gap between them was the McLaren guys, as Norris was right in front of Alonso and Ricciardo was pretty much saved by the bell in fifteenth after a deleted lap time. The eliminated drivers in Q1 were Raikkonen (P16), Ocon (P17), Latifi (P18), Schumacher (P19) and Mazepin (P20).
Mediums debuted in Q2 in the same fashion as last week’s qualifying. The exception was that it was only Pérez on track at the beginning, completely on his own, and he was back even before the others left their garages. Both top teams and Ferrari sporting yellows wasn’t too eye catching, but Ricciardo’s choice of doing it as well was more surprising, taking into account he had barely made it into this session. This first try left Russell in the top ten, whereas both Ferraris were out. The second stint repeated this, with the most surprising part being Russell beating both of them with medium tyres. Alonso was also left out, due to being blocked by Vettel in the last corners during an extremely fast lap in the way that race direction had warned them not to do. The eliminated drivers in Q1 were Sainz (P11), Leclerc (P12), Ricciardo (P13), Alonso (P14) and Giovinazzi (P15).
Softs were back on the cars for Q3 among a sea of support for Verstappen from orange clad fans. The first run saw the Dutch driver in front by more than two whole tenths, but it was over Norris, not even the Mercedes pair. Pérez was, at this point, in fifth. In the second run, Norris somehow grabbed the fastest time in the first sector, stealing it away from Verstappen and being left barely half a tenth of a second away from him. Pérez overtook both Mercedes, who couldn’t even improve their own times, and no silver arrow was in the top three.
History repeats itself. At least according to a saying and, from now own, Max Verstappen. The fact that it was so expected still didn’t contain everybody’s excitement at the track, mostly inundated by orange and dark blue. The surprise came from Norris, who was extremely close to the pole position time, even managing to snag a fastest sector from Max Verstappen. It remains to see whether he’ll be able to contend for the victory tomorrow.