Felipe Massa managed to capture his first pole position since the 2008 Brazilian GP, while teammate Valtteri Bottas enjoyed the best qualifying performance of his career. We caught up with the Williams duo and their fellow drivers to see what they had to say before Sunday’s race.
‘Don’t Rule Me Out,’ Says Hamilton After Qualifying Ninth
Lewis Hamilton says he’s looking forward to fighting his way up from ninth on the grid in Austria.
The Mercedes driver was surprisingly upbeat given his disastrous qualifying session, which began with his first lap time being cancelled for exceeding track limits, and ended with a spin at Turn 2 on his final run.
“I’m going to try and have fun,” said Hamilton. “I’m obviously going to try and stay out of trouble amongst all the cars that are around where I am, and take my time. There’s a long, long race tomorrow, and strategy and all these different things.
“It’s not going to be easy, for sure. I’ve got all these quick cars in front of me and it’s great to see Williams so fast today, it’s really good for them to have a front row. Sometimes it’s other people’s turn. Hopefully tomorrow we’ll still have a good race for them.”
Hamilton said that he had to target victory: “Always. Even if I was starting last I’m always going for the win. Obviously it gets harder and harder the further back you go.
“I have to sit down and talk to my strategist. It’s so difficult to know how things will pan out. Do you sit back a little bit and wait for people’s tires to go off and then push, do you just go all out at the beginning and potentially risk your tires going off a little bit sooner than others? I really don’t know just yet what the plan of attack is. All I know is hopefully I’m just going for the win. We’ll see how it works out. It’s obviously damage limitation, it’s to try and get as many points tomorrow ands get some more points on the scoreboard.”
Hamilton did not make any excuses for his Q3 spin: “We don’t know exactly what happened but I assume I just pressed the brake too hard.”
He had no problem with losing his earlier time for exceeding track limits.
“It’s quite cool that they’ve put the limit there. Of course policing it is not the easiest. Some people have gone wide and not been done, some people have gone a little bit wide and they have been done. I think they did a good job. Today we had a little pace in the car, so it hurts a little bit in the gut but I’ll try and make up for that tomorrow.”
He also insisted that his mistakes today and in Montreal qualifying were not due to pressure.
“I don’t think I’m trying too hard. My laps have been pretty good all weekend, I knew I had extra time in my pocket. I pulled it out on my first lap and then obviously didn’t finish the lap. Then the second time round, I was just taking the car into unknown territories, I guess. There’s a long way to go, so don’t rule me out here.”
Mistake Costs Bottas Shot At First Career Pole
Valtteri Bottas earned a career-best second place on the grid in Austria – but a mistake on his final run cost him a shot at pole.
The Finn was fastest after the first runs, but ultimately lost out to Williams teammate Felipe Massa.
“Best position so far in my career, so one more place to go,” said Bottas. “Well done Felipe. I’m really happy for us as a team. This result is really good at this point. We’ve made some big, big steps from last year and now we get a result like this. Of course it’s only Saturday but still we can see that all the hard work really starts to pay off.
“It’s going to be a different story tomorrow, it’s not going to be easy to keep the Mercedes cars behind for sure, and even some other cars like Ferrari and Red Bull are going to be strong. Not a bad day today but we just need to keep focused now.”
Regarding his prospects for the race, he said: “I think you always try to do the best you can. I think it really depends how good a start you get and it depends on the situation, what kind of start the other cars around will get and then you see how is the situation but I think both of us, me and Felipe, we really need to just try and do the best we can, try and go as forward as possible after the first corner and the first lap and keep the position as long as possible. We know that Mercedes’ race pace is going to be really really strong so it’s not going to be an easy day tomorrow but we will do our best.”
Alonso Expects Heavy Pressure During Race
Fernando Alonso admits that he’s fortunate to be starting as high as fourth in Austria – but he insists that Ferrari has made genuine progress with its recent updates.
Fourth represents Alonso’s best dry qualifying position to date with the F14T.
“Definitely it was not a normal qualifying,” said Alonso. “Probably we took advantage of it because it’s not normal to see Hamilton behind us, for example. We need to be proud of the position. Definitely the new parts we brought in Canada and here, they seem to work fine. In Canada we felt more potential in the car, but for whatever reason, the track or the layout or whatever was not good for us, and we didn’t have a good race.
“But the new parts were better than the old ones, so that was a positive sign. Here again we tested some others and they seemed to be also positive, so hopefully we are moving in the right direction. We know there’s still a long way to go.
“As I said the qualifying, we need to be calm about the result, because we were 1.1 seconds behind the Mercedes this morning and in some practice, now we have one Mercedes one tenth [ahead] and one Mercedes behind, so I don’t think everybody used their full potential, because conditions were a little bit tricky.”
Alonso admits he expects to face pressure from behind, and not just from Lewis Hamilton, who is back in ninth: “I expect [Daniel] Ricciardo and [Sebastian] Vettel – with all the new tires he has now – to have a strong race. So it’s going to be difficult to keep the fourth.”Austrian GP, Felipe Massa, Fernando Alonso, Formula 1, Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, Valtteri Bottas