Felipe Massa claimed his first pole position in six years, at the Red Bull Ring, as team-mate Valtteri Bottas’ second place earned Williams its first front-row lockout since 2003.
It was the first time this season that the dominant Mercedes outfit had not taken pole and the race will see Williams’ first start from the front of the grid since Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado in Spain in 2012. Williams last locked out the front row in Qualifying at the 2003 German Grand Prix, when Juan Pablo Montoya claimed pole at Hockenheim ahead of Ralf Schumacher.
Mercedes’ Qualifying unraveled when Lewis Hamilton’s W05snapped out of control on the run up to turn two, sending the Briton into a spin. Having made a mistake on his opening run, which led to his lap being ruled out for exceeding the track limits, Hamilton failed to set a time in Q3 and will start ninth.
Worse for Mercedes was that Hamilton’s final lap problem brought out the yellow flags, which meant that Rosberg had to back off from his final flyer. The title leader will start third.
Q1 followed a predictable path, with the bottom four positions split between Marussia and Caterham, with Jules Bianchi and Kamui Kobayashi ahead of Max Chilton and Marcus Ericsson.
Sebastian Vettel’s banker time on Soft tyres left him close to the drop zone, in 15th position, but the champion was never in any real danger, at least in this session. He eased through to Q2, two tenths of a second ahead of Pastor Maldonado. The Lotus driver was lucky to make it into the second phase, however, as Adrian Sutil’s last gasp lap came up short by just four thousandths of a second. Sutil’s time was, however, good enough to drop Sauber team-mate Esteban Gutierrez to 18th.
Q2 was altogether more unpredictable and after the first runs both Kimi Raikkonen in 14th place and Sebastian Vettel in 12th found themselves in need of improvements if they were to make the top-10 shoot-out. But while Raikkonen found the time required, claiming tenth place in Q2 with a time of 1:09.657, Vettel was less fortunate.
The champion ended up with a final lap of 1:09.801 to secure 13th place behind Jenson Button and 11th-placed Sergio Perez, who will have to take a five-place penalty in the race after the sanction imposed following his accident with Felipe Massa at the Canadian Grand Prix was upheld following a review in Austria, on Friday. Also ruled out of Q3 were Maldonado, Jean-Eric Vergne and Romain Grosjean.
Vettel said, “I’m not happy, let’s put it that way. I think anything is possible tomorrow but surely we are not as quick as we’d like to be.”
Vettel’s team-mate Daniel Ricciardo once again delivered an excellent lap when it was required, the Australian jumping to ninth from 11th to finish ahead of Raikkonen.
Ricciardo wasn’t the only ‘junior’ member of a team to outpace his team-mate. McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen finished Q2 in fifth place and Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat went through in seventh place. Fastest were the Mercedes of Rosberg and Hamilton, ahead of the Williams cars of Bottas and Massa.
Q3 was similarly surprising. After the first runs it was Bottas in provisional pole position, the Finn’s time of 1:08.846 giving him 0.1 s advantage over Rosberg, with Massa a further tenth back. Hamilton, though, was in trouble. Like many others during the course of the weekend so far, he was caught out by the high-speed turn eight and ran wide. With all four wheels off track his time was deleted for exceeding the track limits.
In the final runs it was Bottas who blinked, the Finn making a small error but one significant enough to give his pursuer a chance. And it was Massa who seized the opportunity, scoring his first pole since Brazil 2008 and Williams first front-of-grid starting position since the Spanish Grand Prix of 2012. Bottas had to settled for second, giving Williams its first front row lockout since Germany in 2003, when Juan Pablo Montoya and Ralf Schumacher occupied the top two spots.
Wth Rosberg third, fourth place went to Fernando Alonso. Ricciardo rescued Red Bull’s Saturday by lifting his RB10 to fifth spot. Magnussen will start in sixth place for McLaren, ahead of the impressive Kvyat. Raikkonen will start eighth while Hamilton will start ninth, as Nico Hullkenberg’s final time was also deleted for exceeding the track limits.
It was the first time this season that dominant Mercedes had not taken pole and the race will see Williams’ first start from the front of the grid since Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado in Spain in 2012.
“Williams are back [at] the top, they are back to fight. I am pleased for me and the team as well,” declared an emotional Massa whose last pole was with Ferrari at his home grand prix before finishing that season as runner-up.
“After a long time I hope that this is just the beginning of great possibilities. I hope to be in this position again,” added the Brazilian who suffered near-fatal head injuries in a freak accident in Hungary in 2009.
Rosberg said afterwards, “I didn’t expect Williams to be ahead of us, but they did a good job and it did not come together for us. I could not put the perfect lap together because of Lewis spinning – I had to lift off, so that definitely cost me today. Third is OK to start from – I’ll have a quick car in the race.”
Hamilton who will start lower than he has all year, from ninth, reflected, “It was just two not very good laps. Or one-and-a-quarter-laps – I didn’t finish my second one. The feeling was there in the car, it has been good all weekend. To be honest my first lap was looking good and [I] went wide in the second to last corner.”
“I think that lap would have done it. I’ve swallowed that [pill] many times, it’s easier the more and more you do it. We’re going to be strong tomorrow, it’s going to be very, very hard from where we are, but of course I’ll do everything I can to try and get some good points for the team. It’s damage limitation I guess,” mused the Briton.
But in the end the day belonged to Massa and Williams, “I am so happy with what has happened today, with us, our team, it was such a great moment. It is a long time since I last had a pole position,” Massa told reporters.
Bottas also celebrated his best ever Qualifying performance, “It’s a great result for the team. We’ve made progress throughout the year and now we get this result. The hard work is all paying off.”
“It will be a different story tomorrow I think. We have a big, big job to keep the Mercedes cars behind us – and some of the other cars – Ferrari and Red Bull – can do well also.”
In closing, Sir Frank Williams’ delight was palpable, with the Williams supremo and team principal smiling with delight at the result,on a day that marks a sombre anniversary for him – exactly 44 years to the day that his first driver, Piers Courage, died in an accident during the 1970 Dutch GP. (GP247-F1 Media)
Austrian Grand Prix, Qualifying – 21 June 2014
|5||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:10.395||1:09.638||1:09.466||22|
|10||27||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:10.389||1:09.624||23|
|11||11||Sergio Perez||Force India-Mercedes||1:10.124||1:09.754||18|
|13||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:10.630||1:09.801||15|