Spielberg: Finland’s Valtteri Bottas will start the Formula One season on pole position after denying Mercedes team-mate and six-times world champion Lewis Hamilton the top slot in Austria yesterday.
The front-row lockout by Mercedes equalled Ferrari’s record of 65, and the ‘Black Arrows’ – their new livery a statement against racism – were in a private duel at the scenic Red Bull Ring.
Hamilton had started as favourite after dominating all three practice sessions but Bottas shifted up a gear just when it mattered.
Hamilton was a mere 0.012 slower than the Finn’s time of one minute 02.939 seconds, set on his first run, after lapping fastest on Friday and yesterday’s final practice at the scenic Red Bull Ring.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, winner of the past two races at his team’s home circuit, qualified third – half a second slower than Hamilton – but as the sole driver in the top 10 on the medium tyres.
McLaren’s Lando Norris, at 20 the youngest man in the race, will line up an impressive fourth.
Ferrari, championship runners-up last season, had a nightmare afternoon.
Four-times champion Sebastian Vettel failed to reach the top 10 shootout, starting 11th, while Charles Leclerc qualified seventh after taking pole last year.
Red Bull’s Alexander Albon qualified fifth with Mexican Sergio Perez sixth for Racing Point, whose pink-liveried car is a lookalike of the title-winning 2019 Mercedes.
Spaniard Carlos Sainz, who is taking Vettel’s place at Ferrari next year, qualified eighth for McLaren with Racing Point’s Lance Stroll ninth and Australian Daniel Ricciardo 10th for Renault.
At the slower end of the grid, there was cheer for former champions Williams, last overall in 2019, with George Russell qualifying 17th and ahead of both Ferrari-powered Alfa Romeos as well as rookie team-mate Nicholas Latifi.
Today’s race is the first major global sporting event since the Covid-19 pandemic, with the 10 teams working in isolation and closely-controlled conditions for health and safety.