Like a much needed antidote to a rather predictable French Grand Prix, qualifying for today’s Austrian Grand Prix was anything but routine, as the nature of the Red Bull ring and a plethora of penalties for a number of drivers for a range of infringements upset the expected grid order for a hotly anticipated race.
Four different teams will occupy the first five grid places with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc on pole on a seemingly alternative strategy, Max Verstappen inheriting second place from Lewis Hamilton in an unusually tardy Mercedes on the receiving end of a three place grid penalty for blocking Kimi in Q1, followed by an all Mercedes second row (Hamilton goes down three places from second to fourth – work that one out) and the stellar Lando Norris in fifth.
Indeed just two drivers – Charles Leclerc in pole and Romain Grosjean in eleventh will start the race in the position in which they qualified.
Whilst all this should have been good news for Williams F1, promoting them from their now traditional 19th and 20th place starts, George Russell in the quicker of the two Williams first found himself with a three place grid penalty for inadvertently impeding Toro Rosso’s Kvyat’s qualifying lap taking him from 15th back to 18th, and then a change of front wing to a different spec under parc ferme conditions will see him start the race from the pitlane – penalties he received with typical grace and optimism it must be said!
Robert Kubica will start 17th, despite being the slowest of all the qualifiers as a result of penalties to Albon, Sainz and team mate Russell.
If practice showed us anything, with three top drivers – Verstappen, Vettel and Bottas going off circuit, two of which prompted red flags, it’s that the Red Bull Ring can be a tricky circuit to get right, and if you make a mistake, you’re likely to be punished.
Because of this, the topsy turvy grid, the heat and the nature of the unforgiving Red Bull Ring come Sunday’s race, those drivers who keep their heads and make it to the finish could be rewarded with a decent result.
I’m expecting incident, the odd safety car, differing strategies, some unreliability and a smattering of controversy.
Just what Formula 1 needs!
And if Williams can eke their way towards the midfield I’d be absolutely delighted.