Hamilton again proves the rain master, taking pole for the Styrian Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton again proved a master of wet weather conditions as the reigning world champion produced a scintillating lap to take pole position for the Styrian Grand Prix from Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and the McLaren of Carlos Sainz.

For a long time it looked as if the torrential rain that had been falling for several hours before the session and curtailed the earlier F3 race may threaten to postpone qualifying on Sunday. But after the rain abated somewhat, a brave, and ultimately correct decision made for a fantastic qualifying, Austrian GP winner Valtteri Bottas next on the timesheets from Esteban Ocon, Lando Norris and Alexander Albon, as Pierre Gasly, Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel rounded out the top ten.

“What a tricky day,” said Hamilton to Sky Sports’ Paul di Resta after securing pole. “It was obviously incredibly difficult out there for all of us, and a lot of the time you can’t even see where you’re going and I had one big moment I think, the lap before the last, a big aquaplane that definitely had my heart in my mouth but I was able to improve on my next lap, nice and clean. But I love these days.”

For Verstappen, after the disappointment of his retirement from a technical issue whilst running strongly last weekend, second place on the grid gives the Dutchman a realistic chance of victory with more inclement weather forecast for Sunday.

“I think overall it was a good qualifying but in Q3 it was raining a lot more and it seemed like we were struggling a lot more in the really wet conditions, just aquaplaning a lot more and I couldn’t really put the power down and combine corners ,” commented Verstappen. “So it was not easy, I tried to be a bit closer to the guy ahead, to stay in his tracks and to have a little bit less water, but anyway I think P2 is still good, it’s just very tricky out there and of course the last lap could have been better but I don’t think it would have been enough to beat Lewis but overall, I think it was quite good.”

Rain is always one of the great levellers in Formula One, meaning driver skill is always at a premium as well as the machinery underneath him. And it was another great session for the McLaren duo of Sainz and Norris, proving that the famous Woking team is also making big strides forwards.

“Very happy to come back and to put in a P3 for the first time in my career, second row,” said Sainz. “It feels amazing, especially as qualifying was one of the toughest I’ve done as a Formula One driver. So, to get in a really good last lap was, with so much aquaplaning, it was crazy on the straights, keeping your foot down and sliding on the straights is something that I enjoy. But I think, talking to Max and Lewis and they were also like, quite excited about this!”

Hamilton may once again take the plaudits for another supreme lap in the trickiest of conditions. But another Englishman under contract with Mercedes could also lay claim to be driver of the day, Williams’ George Russell wringing the neck out of his Williams to start 12th on the grid for Sunday. And of conditions prove similar to Saturday, do not write off his chances of a points finish after an unfortunate DNF last weekend denied him.

“Q2 was our target this weekend, but if someone told me it would be less than a tenth to Q3, I wouldn’t have believed that,” said Russell in his team’s press release. “It was incredibly tricky out there. I couldn’t see at many points, but I gave it everything I had, and it worked out. The car was feeling good and I had a lot of fun out there. I am really pleased for all the guys who come week in week out fighting. It is not quite the true pace of our car, but it’s a real boost for everyone in the team. Overall it was a great qualifying session, I am really happy and let’s see what we can do tomorrow.”

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.