September 26, 2020

Lewis Hamilton takes Styrian GP pole position in heavy rain

styrian gp
Live text and audio commentary of the Styrian Grand Prix is live on the BBC Sport website

Lewis Hamilton was in scintillating form as he took a stunning pole position in treacherous wet conditions at the Styrian Grand Prix.

The Mercedes driver was a remarkable 1.216 seconds clear of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who spun as he tried to beat Hamilton’s time.

Carlos Sainz took an excellent third place for McLaren as first-race winner Valtteri Bottas was fourth.

Renault’s Esteban Ocon was fifth, ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris.

Lewis Hamilton
That’s Hamilton’s 89th career pole position – and one of his best

Hamilton’s wet weather skills

The start of qualifying was delayed by 46 minutes as a storm front hit the Styrian mountains, but Hamilton was the man to beat once the cars took to a streaming wet track.

In the wettest conditions seen in a Formula 1 qualifying session for some time, Hamilton was fastest in all three sessions, underlining the wet-weather skills he has shown through out his career.

Verstappen threw everything at Hamilton on his final lap, having moments at Turn Five and Turn Seven before losing control completely with a spin at Turn Nine.

Lewis Hamilton celebrates pole position
“I love these days” Hamilton was happy to grab pole in the tricky conditions

Hamilton was already 0.787secs clear of the field as he headed into the final lap of the session but he pulled out another huge performance on his final lap to take another half-second off his own best time.

“What a tricky day,” he said. “The weather’s obviously incredibly difficult for all of us.

“A lot of the time you can’t even see where you’re going. I had one big moment the lap before the last, a big aquaplane, but I was able to improve on the last lap. I love these days.

“I hear tomorrow is going to be a much more sunny day and we have prepared for both conditions.”

Giovinanzzi spins
Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi spun in at the end of Q1, but there were fewer casualties given how heavy the rain was across the session

McLaren excel again

The starting positions give Hamilton a good chance of closing the 13-point lead team-mate Bottas built with his victory in the first race of the season on the same track last weekend.

The Finn was a sobering 1.428secs slower than his team-mate in the demanding conditions and beaten by a strong performance by Sainz.

The Spaniard achieved his career-best grid position, making it two weekends in a row in which a McLaren has started a race third, after Norris was promoted a place by a grid penalty for Hamilton.

Carlos Sainz
A very good day for McLaren as Sainz becomes the team’s first driver to qualify in P3 since Jenson Button at Silverstone back in 2014

Norris will be demoted three places on the grid as a result of a penalty for overtaking when passing yellow caution flags in Friday practice so will start the race ninth.

Ferrari had another dismal day, Charles Leclerc failing to make it into the final top 10 shoot-out in 11th place. Team-mate Sebastian Vettel did make the final session but was slowest and 10th.

But it was a good day for Williams’ George Russell, who made it into the second knock-out session for the first time and will start an impressive 12th.

Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz
Sainz said the qualifying session was “one of the toughest” he had done in his career, while Verstappen admitted he “couldn’t see anything”.
Alex Albon reads a magazine
Red Bull’s Alex Albon waits in the garage as the rain sets in