Sunday, June 22, 2014

Massa Leads Surprise Williams Front Row Qualifying Performance in Austria

Photo Credit: Pirelli Photo Service

After 11 years off the Formula 1 schedule, the open wheel series returns as a radically different venue. Still set on a 4.236-kilometer track as was the 2003 grand prix, the name has been changed from the A-1 Ring to the Red Bull Ring and the facility has underwent a host of enhancements.

Back in 2003, the Formula 1 racing tour was a seen where V-10 engines roared, Red Bull Racing didn't even exist and racing great Michael Schumacher was adding to what would be a career of record-breaking performances. A season that ended with a championship point standing where Schumacher won by just two points over then-McLaren driver Kimi Raikkonen, the German driver's Austrian Grand Prix victory ultimately that year served as an important piece to a his sixth of seven world drivers' titles.

This era was also the last recent period where the Williams F1 Team was a formidable front-runner in Formula 1 competition. Winning four races in 2003, the Frank Williams-founded race organization has only won two times over the course of the grand prix events held from 2004 to this season. Fighting to find the right combination of drivers, engines and support, the Williams Martini Racing team appears to have struck upon a possible podium-contending match for 2014. Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas have been making the most out of a solid car and a competent Mercedes-Benz powerplant in several races so far this season. Returning to the former A-1 Ring in Austria, the Williams Martini Racing team may channeled their past magic in Formula 1 to top everyone else in Saturday's qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix.

The Williams-Mercedes cars led a progressive surge in the three practice sessions at the Red Bull Ring. By the third and final practice session, Valtteri Bottas stood at the top of the time sheet while his highly-experienced teammate Felipe Massa was tightly nestled posting the third-fastest time. It was in qualifying where the seasoned Brazilian driver rose to deliver a commanding performance. Felipe Massa pulled off a Q3 timed lap of 1 minute, 8.769 seconds to grab his 16th career pole position and his first since the 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix. As a plus for Williams Martini Racing, Valtteri Bottas was less than a tenth of a second off Massa's fastest lap allowing him to start in second. The first pole for Williams since 2012, the presence of both cars on the front row has not been seen since 2003 at the German Grand Prix.

Photo Credit: Andrew Hone/ Pirelli Photo Service

While the Saturday time trial session glory belonged to the Mercedes-Benz customer team in Austria, the factory team has been celebrating for the most race weekends this Formula 1 season. The Mercedes AMG team remains fast but has appeared a little more fallible since the Canadian Grand Prix race two weeks ago. Nico Rosberg posted the third-fastest time in a session that saw the Mercedes F1 W05 Hybrid race car dethroned from the top spot after grand prix qualifying this season. As for the Mercedes AMG driver Lewis Hamilton, his Q3 session was marred with mishaps. Making two attempts, Hamilton would ultimately have to scrub both runs spinning in the second run. The Brit will start in ninth place.

Photo Credit: Mercedes AMG

Qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix also served a mixed bag for Ferrari and Red Bull Racing. Winless since the 2013 Spanish Grand Prix, Ferrari and Fernando Alonso are still trying to find the final ingredient of consistent, front-running speed. Alonso posted a fourth-fastest time on Saturday but Kimi Raikkonen could only muster an eighth place starting position. Capturing their first 2014 win at the previous grand prix, The Red Bull-Renault's victory came just in time for the event on the Red Bull Ring. Red Bull Racing has been led by the team's newcomer Daniel Ricciardo through much of the season. Austrian Grand Prix qualifying at the team owner's home event has continued to result in the Australian outrunning his championship defending teammate. Ricciardo will start fifth Sunday while Sebastian Vettel missed the Q3 session for a third time this season settling for a 12th place grid position.      

Formula 1 rookies for 2014 Kevin Magnussen and Daniil Kvyat posted impressive times on the Red Bull Ring for respectable Sunday grid spots. The McLaren-Mercedes of Magnussen will start sixth while the Kvyat's Toro Rosso-Renault will roll-off seventh. Nico Hulkenberg will start tenth for the Austrian Grand Prix for Force India.

With a forecast calling for a warm and sunny Austrian Grand Prix, 71 laps around the Red Bull Ring is scheduled to commence at 2 PM local time and 8 AM eastern time.

2014 Formula 1
Austrian Grand Prix
Starting Grid

Pos # Car # Driver Team Engine

1 19 Felipe Massa Williams Mercedes-Benz
2 77 Valtteri Bottas Williams F1 Renault
3 6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes AMG Mercedes-Benz
4 14 Fernando Alonso Ferrari Ferrari
5 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Renault
6 22 Kevin Magnussen McLaren Mercedes-Benz
7 26 Daniil Kvyat Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault
8 7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari Ferrari
9 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG Mercedes-Benz
10 27 Nico Hulkenberg Force India Mercedes-Benz
11 22 Jenson Button McLaren Mercedes-Benz
12 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Renault
13 13 Pastor Maldonado Lotus Renault
14 25 Jean-Eric Vergne Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault
15 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus Renault
16 11 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes-Benz
17 99 Adrian Sutil Sauber Ferrari
18 21 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber Ferrari
19 17 Jules Bianchi Marussia Ferrari
20 10 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham Renault
21 9 Marcus Ericsson Caterham Renault
22 4 Max Chilton Marussia Ferrari

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