The first time trial Saturday of this season in the Formula One World Championship series was a perfect hit for Mercedes Finnish star Valtteri Bottas.
In the third stage of the Austrian GP's time trials, Bottas cannoned the button lap, which brought Nastola a track record for the Spielberg track and a pole position in the opening race of the F1 season.
The role of Alfa Romeo, represented by Finnish veteran Kimi Räikkönen, seems to be a jumbo battle with Williams.
Räikkönen will start in Sunday's race from the second to last, ie 19th square.
- We are not as good compared to other stables as last year. That is a reality, and we have to look at what can be done, Räikkönen pondered.
The Mercedes, who had managed the driving week to their heart's content, fought hard for the pole position, as Lewis Hamilton, who started hunting for the seventh World Championship title, was only 0.012 seconds behind the Finn.
- I definitely missed this feeling of adrenaline rush that you get when looking for the extremes of these machines - it’s so much fun. I was finally able to heal those snippets where my pace was still exhausted and get good laps, Bottas, who was a little behind Hamilton’s pace before the time trials, enjoyed it.
Bottas gassed his peak time of 1.02,939 right in his first round of the third stage. The momentum was also on in the second lap, but the Finn's fourth bend went wide, and Mercedes drifted into the sand.
The pile was third for Bottas in Austria and 12th in his career. In 2017, Pole Place also led the first ball in the Austrian competition.
One of the biggest topics of talk for the season’s opening weekend has been Mercedes ’new DAS steering system, which the garage has built into this season’s car. The case sparked a bustle already in winter tests before the coronavirus pandemic.
Red Bull team manager Christian Horner raised a protest against the system after Friday’s rehearsals, but the race jury gave it its blessing as early as Saturday.
The DAS allows the driver to adjust the plowing angle of the front wheels. The system reduces drivers' air resistance, which improves direct speeds.
- I think our team was preparing for some other teams to consider it (DAS) illegal. I didn't worry about it myself, because I trust my team, Bottas acknowledged.
The third place in the time trial was taken by Red Verstappen, who won the last two years in Austria. The Dutchman lost to Bottas by more than half a second, underscoring Mercedes ’superiority.
- I'm really surprised at what our differences are with respect to other stables. What we have achieved is convincing, Bottas praised.
- Of course, the races are completely different stories, and we have seen many times that Red Bull has a good car. Many different things affect the races, and we have not been able to compare our pace to other teams during long driving periods either.
Compared to the expectations of the season, Ferrari served the worst issue of the time trials. Sebastian Vettel, who left the team after this season, was stuck in 11th place in the second section. Charles Leclerc of Monaco still finished in seventh place.
- We have to try to get through these difficult times, work as a team and cheer each other up, Leclerc said according to the news agency AFP.
McLaren’s promising British Lando Norris accelerated handsomely to fourth. Racing Point drivers, who were raised as surprise challengers by Mercedes on the basis of rehearsals, instead slumped slightly, with Sergio Perez in sixth and Lance Stroll in ninth.
The first race of the F1 season will start in Austria on Sunday at 16.10 Finnish time.