Bottas takes pole as Ferrari flounder and Norris stars

Valtteri Bottas has taken pole position for the opening round of a delayed 2020 Formula 1 season. Alasdair Russell reports.

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The Finnish driver managed to pip his Mercedes teammate to pole position in the final qualifiers on Saturday, making it the 12th pole position of his career.

The Finn claimed the 12th pole position of his career, despite a big off on his final lap at the end of Q3. Six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton couldn’t match the pace of his Mercedes teammate, and will start second on the grid tomorrow. 

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen will line up in P3 but, crucially, will start on the longer lasting medium compound tyre. Everybody else in the top ten will start on the faster, but much less durable, soft tyre. His teammate Alex Albon managed P5 in a difficult session for the Thai driver.

The star of the show was undoubtedly McLaren’s Lando Norris, who will start in a career best fourth place on the grid. His teammate Carlos Sainz Jr will line up in P8, just behind Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who only managed seventh in a woeful showing for the Scuderia. Sebastian Vettel only managed 11th place on the grid, failing to make it into Q3 for the first time since Germany last year – additionally, it’s the first time with Ferrari that he’s not made the top ten on pace alone.

Racing Point failed to convert their earlier pace into a blockbuster result, but sixth and ninth is still a good result for the team that will become Aston Martin next season. Their long runs on Friday showed them to be one of the strongest teams in terms of race pace. A strong result is not out of the question. 

For Renault, Esteban Ocon failed to make it into Q3 on his return to racing after a year out, whilst Daniel Ricciardo had his final lap in Q3 disrupted by the yellow flags for Bottas’ off track excursion. Alpha Tauri managed 12th and 13th, with Pierre Gasly and Daniil Kvyat respectively. 

Haas struggled with Romain Grosjean barely making it into Q2 and Kevin Magnussen not making the cut at all. Alfa Romeo had issues with Antonio Giovinazzi out qualifying teammate Kimi Raikkonen; only the Williams of Nicolas Latifi was slower. The other Williams of George Russell will line up in P17, out-qualifying his rookie teammate by more than half a second. 

The midfield battle promises to be even tighter tomorrow and it would be foolish to rule out Racing Point for a solid result, as their race pace is incredibly strong. Ferrari will hope to try and salvage something from their dismal weekend and McLaren surely want to keep up their strong start to the season. 

With Lewis Hamilton having been called to the stewards and under investigation for failing to slow properly for the yellow flags, qualifying drama might not yet be over from the Red Bull Ring. 

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