Just two weeks after Mercedes’ hopes of a perfect season went up in smoke, its aspirations for a clean sweep of poles in 2014 have also evaporated after Felipe Massa sprung a surprise to claim his sixteenth career pole position.
The result was in fact Massa’s first pole in over five years, with his last coming at the 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix. Since then, his career has seen some huge ups and downs, but today he was the star as he capitalized on the Silver Arrows’ problems in the final part of qualifying.
Unlike the political psychodrama that developed yesterday in Austria, today it was all about the on-track action. Here’s MotorSportsTalk’s round-up of Saturday at the Red Bull Ring.
- The first signs of a Williams charge came in FP3, where Valtteri Bottas finished fastest ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa.
- However, in qualifying, it was Massa who claimed the spoils after Bottas, Hamilton and Nico Rosberg all failed to improve their times on their final runs.
NEWS FROM THE PADDOCK
- Sebastian Vettel has laughed off rumors linking him to Ferrari, and remains committed to Red Bull despite Adrian Newey’s role changing.
- Sauber’s Monisha Kaltenborn is dismayed by F1’s dismal efforts to keep costs down.
- Helmut Marko has not ruled out Red Bull making its own engines or changing supplier in the future.
- Mistakes for Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton in qualifying cost Mercedes its pole streak.
- Williams secured its first front row lock out in over ten years today in Austria.
- Valtteri Bottas and Daniil Kvyat both claimed their career-best qualifying results.
- Fernando Alonso was pleased to qualify fourth, but knows not to get carried away.
- Ironically, Lewis Hamilton’s spin in Q3 cost teammate Nico Rosberg a shot at pole, in a reverse from Monaco.
- Felipe Massa is hoping that pole position in Austria will mark the beginning of a new chapter in his career.
- At its first ever home grand prix, Red Bull struggled during qualifying.
- Kevin Magnussen secured his best qualifying result since Australia today.
THOUGHTS FROM THE TRACK
As I touched upon in the introduction to this piece, it is good that the focus has moved back onto the on-track action. Just when you thought that the Mercedes cars were invincible, both came unstuck during Q3 to give Williams a memorable front row lock-out.
Eleven years after Frank Williams’ cars last lined up on the front row together, Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas delivered when it mattered. It was a result that was extremely well received in the paddock, with everyone but the boys in silver pleased to see the team return to the front of the field, even if it is just for one day.
For Massa, the result is a particularly emotional one. After missing out on the 2008 world championship in agonizing fashion and then suffering a horrific head injury in 2009, there were doubts as to whether the Brazilian would ever re-find his form. Ferrari was also unsure, and dropped him at the end of last season in favor of re-signing Kimi Raikkonen.
Since joining Williams though, he has been in fine fettle. The Brazilian driver has been desperately unlucky in 2014, and still maintains that he could have won the Canadian Grand Prix had it not been for a problem at his pit stop. Today, he proved that he still has what it takes to light up the timesheets: P1 in qualifying. Congratulations, Felipe.
And also a hearty well done to Valtteri Bottas. His charge to second place on the grid was a fine result, all things considered. He was unfortunate not to secure his first ever pole, given that Massa beat him by less than one-tenth of a second.
All the while, we must remember that Mercedes is still the dominant force in the sport. Nico Rosberg will know that, from third place on the grid, he is still in with a great chance of winning for the third time this season. Hamilton, down in ninth, faces a fight. It should give us some great action in the race, though, seeing him fight through.
Today was all about Williams, though. There is no guarantee that Massa and Bottas will be able to win the race tomorrow, nor will they be assured of a podium finish. However, the first Austrian Grand Prix since 2003 should be a fascinating spectacle.
You can watch the race live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 7:30am ET tomorrow.