F1: Hamilton excels in the wet in Styria
Lewis Hamilton claimed a brilliant Pole Position in the rain which made conditions exceptionally tricky as Carlos Sainz Jr and George Russell star for McLaren and Williams.
11th July 2020
Ahead of today's running, the FIA told the teams as early as Friday that the weather conditions could mean that Qualifying may not go ahead. Although the third Practice session was cancelled, thankfully the green light was given so Qualifying could go ahead despite a delayed start.
There was a window of opportunity as the rain eased to allow the drivers to go out on track. The circuit remained wet throughout so the drivers stuck with the full Wet tyres and there were two drivers that looked the comfortable - Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen.
It was Hamilton who finished the session on top by a staggering 1.2 seconds ahead of Verstappen who had a hairy last lap in the session. The Dutchman was the only one who could mount a challenge to Hamilton but the rear of his Red Bull snapped as he exited Turn 9 - pirouetting round and ending his chance for second career Pole Position.
Hamilton kept his W11 in control, lighting up the timing screens to post a 1:19:273 making him the only driver to get into the one minute 19s.
Behind the Mercedes and Red Bull drivers came the McLaren of Carlos Sainz to take his best-ever Qualifying in 3rd. The McLaren pair of Sainz Jr and team-mate Lando Norris looked great in the wet conditions with Norris qualifying three positions behind in 6th. However, the Brit will start in 9th after been given a three place grid drop for ignoring yellow flags in FP1.
Between the McLaren drivers came the Championship leader in Valterri Bottas and Renault's Esteban Ocon who gives the French team their best start since the Italian GP last year.
Alexander Albon was off the pace of Verstappen all session but still managed to qualify in 7th for Red Bull. The Alpha Tauri of Pierre Gasly put in a great lap to qualify 8th with Renault's Daniel Ricciardo and the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel rounded-out the top ten.
Just missing out on a spot in the final qualifying session was the second Ferrari of Charles Leclerc. Leclerc, who finished second last weekend, ensured that a Ferrari driver was knocked-out in Q2 for the second qualifying running. The Monegasque said: "However we look at it, we're just too slow at the moment." To add insult to injury, he'll start 14th instead of 11th for tomorrow's race as he impeded Daniil Kvyat. Ouch.
Apart from the performances from Hamilton, Sainz Jr and Ocon, George Russell was one of the stand-out drivers of the session after managing to get his FW43 into Q2. The Brit driver reached Q2 for the first time in his career and recorded the first appearance of a Williams car in Q2 since Brazil 2018. He posted a 1:19:636, less than +0.010s behind Leclerc, to take 12th.
Lance Stroll, Kvyat and Kevin Magnussen were also eliminated in Q2 taking up the grid positions 13th to 15th.
Alfa Romeo's Kimi Raikkonen was 16th ahead of Racing Point's Sergio Perez who was a surprise exit in the early stage. The Mexican topped the dry FP1 session but looked uncomfortable in the treacherous conditions.
Nicholas Latifi looked as quick as team-mare Russell but will start from 18th ahead of Alfa Romeo's Antonio Giovinazzi. The Italian driver pushed too hard and lost control on the exit of Turn 9. He slid into the barriers, rear first thus brining out the red flag ending the first session with 11 seconds to spare.
Haas's Romain Grosjean did not set a lap time after skating off track early on in the session. He did not come back out on track with a suspected water pump issue and will start the race in 20th.