Austrian GP preview: Force India 5th at qualifying, Hamilton and Rosberg lead the grid
The Austrian GP has begun with a lot of incidents, with McLaren drivers Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button being hit with 25-place and 20-place grid penalties respectively. Red Bull were also penalised with both their drivers suffering a 10-place grid penalty. Mercedes maintained their lead on the championship with 1st and 2nd positions at qualifying as well as the practice sessions. Force India driver Nico Hulkenberg built on his Le Mans win with an impressive 5th place finish at qualifying.
Drivers have cited the track and climate conditions for difficult racing in the past 3 days. Hamilton and Rosberg’s car spun at the final corner during their last laps, but their finishing time in the previous laps ensured Mercedes retained the 1st two grid positions. Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel could not capitalise on the Mercedes mishap, as he clocked 0.355 seconds more than Hamilton in his 3rd qualifying round. His Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen had a bad day due to a damp track, as the Finn could not complete his 2nd and 3rd qualifying, and has to make do with 18th position. But penalties on Red Bull and McLaren will mean that he will start Sunday’s final race four places ahead at 14th. Toro Rosso youngsters capitalised on the wet track and finished 7th and 13th respectively, as the track conditions suited their car.
McLaren have taken a big gamble in Austria with their decision to change engine parts, which exceeded the maximum number of changes allowed per season. The McLaren chose to go ahead with their decision with the reason that the Red Bull Ring at Austria does not suit their car, and the upcoming races at Hungary and England have more wining potential. They would rather risk penalties and have a stronger car before the next races.
Mercedes driver Rosberg is cautious about Sunday’s final race, Ferrari’s Vettel was at his heels the whole time during qualifying. He seemed concerned after both his and Hamilton’s car spun out at the final corner during 3rd qualifying. When questioned whether Ferrari will pip them over during race day, “They seem quick. On the long run they were even closer. We need to do a perfect weekend.”
Rosberg’s team-mate Lewis Hamilton remained upbeat regarding his performance on Saturday, “I had a bit of oversteer on some of my laps but generally it is quite good. Hopefully I will fix it by qualifying. It should be good tomorrow.” Hamilton has won four of the seven races so far this season and stands 1st at the championship table with 151 points, Nico Rosberg is trailing him by 17 points at 134, while Sebastian Vettel is at 108 points.
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