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Williams’ Dave Robson: “There is still a long way to go this weekend”

Dave Robson, the Head of Vehicle Performance at Williams Racing, admitted that the team thought it was going to be difficult to qualify higher for the Austrian Grand Prix than they did in the Styrian Grand Prix last weekend, but George Russell not only achieved that, he did so on the medium compound of Pirelli tyre.

Last weekend, Russell qualified eleventh on the grid, missing out on the top ten by a very narrow margin, but this time the margin was in his favour, with the Briton 0.006 seconds faster than Scuderia Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr. as he made it into the top ten shootout for the first time as a Williams driver.

In Q3, Russell went onto qualify ninth – which became eighth after Sebastian Vettel was given a post-session grid penalty – and Robson says it was an excellent performance by driver and team to get this high up the grid.

“We thought that bettering our qualifying result of last week might be difficult, especially given how tricky it can be on this short track,” said Robson.  “However, George – aided by the entire team – produced an excellent performance to not only make it to Q3, but to do so on the Medium tyre.

“There is still a long way to go this weekend, but we can afford a moment of contentment before we move on to the serious business of the race tomorrow.”

AlphaTauri’s Claudio Balestri: “We wanted to maximise our opportunity to enter Q3”

Claudio Balestri, the Chief Engineer of Vehicle Performance at Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda, admits the team went into Qualifying without an optimised balance on either AT-02, but small changes were enough to see both Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda qualify in the top seven.

Gasly was able to qualify sixth for a third consecutive weekend, while Tsunoda enjoyed his best Qualifying performance to date to end up seventh, although both drivers will be starting the race on the soft compound of Pirelli tyre.

Balestri says the decision to use the soft was to ensure they had the opportunity to get into Q3, and after the decision paid off, the team will now do their homework in a bid to maximise their performance and results on race day.

“Today was a busy day,” said Balestri.  “Track temperatures were very different, compared to Friday, so we had to take this into consideration when setting up our cars.

“In the morning session, we continued to test the new tyre for this event and then we focused our attention on Qualifying preparation. At the end of FP3 we were not fully satisfied, as the balance was not really optimised, especially for the softer compound at this race.

Fernando Alonso: “It’s frustrating not to have the opportunity to reach Q3”

Fernando Alonso refused to fully blame Sebastian Vettel for the block that ultimately cost him a chance of an appearance in Q3 at the Red Bull Ring, with the Spaniard laying the responsibility firmly on the German’s engineers on the pit wall.

The Alpine F1 Team driver felt he was on course to make it into Q3 and go for a top six place on the grid for the Austrian Grand Prix when he found Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team’s Vettel on the racing line at the final corner.

Vettel has handed a three-place grid penalty for the offence, but Alonso knows it was the responsibility of those on the Aston Martin pit wall to inform their driver that he was quickly approaching on his final flying lap.

“Today we lost an opportunity to be in a better position than last week on the starting grid, perhaps P5 or P6,” said Alonso, who will start only fourteenth as a result.  “It was an unfortunate situation with Seb [Vettel], which his team should have managed better.

“It’s not Seb’s fault and, as drivers, we’re relying on our engineers to communicate things that are happening on track. It’s disappointing as we had the potential today.

“We went for it and unfortunately missed the cut” – Sainz on Medium Tyre Gamble in Q2

Carlos Sainz Jr. admitted it was a risk to get through into the top ten shootout by using the medium Pirelli tyre at the Red Bull Ring on Saturday, and the plan backfired as the Spaniard missed out by 0.006 seconds.

The Scuderia Ferrari driver avoided the soft tyre in Q2 but was knocked out of the top ten in the closing moments by an improvement from Williams Racing’s George Russell.  And Sainz felt he could have had a good Q3 had it made it through.

And after a strong Styrian Grand Prix last weekend at the same circuit, Sainz is hopeful that Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix will see him move up the order and score another good haul of points. He will start tenth thanks to Sebastian Vettel‘s penalty.

“Today we decided to take a bit more of a risk by trying to make it into Q3 using the Medium tyre,” said Sainz.  “After a decent first attempt with that tyre, we went for it and unfortunately missed the cut by only 6 thousandths of a second.

“I’m obviously not happy with that because it was extremely close and we couldn’t show the good progress we’ve made this week. These past few days, we worked hard on the balance, the set up and my driving style and we could have had a good Q3.

Sebastian Vettel: “We made some small improvements across all the sessions”

Sebastian Vettel felt it was the right call by the Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team to get through Q2 on the soft Pirelli tyres, and he will be aiming for points on Sunday despite having been handed a three-place grid penalty post-session for blocking Fernando Alonso.

The German initially qualified eighth but will drop to eleventh thanks to the penalty, but he believes the soft tyre gamble, with the AMR21 looking like it had the potential to qualify on the medium compound, was the right way to go.

“We can certainly aim for points tomorrow and I am happy with our approach to start on the Soft tyres,” said Vettel.  “They will not last as long as the Mediums or Hards, but it will be a fast tyre so let’s wait and see what we can do tomorrow.

“We made some small improvements across all the sessions and the car has been better balanced today. We have been competitive all weekend and it is the first time this year that both cars have been in Q3.

“If we can run in some clean air tomorrow, we will be able to show some decent race pace.”

Vesti returns to the top after Leclerc suffers big crash

Frederik Vesti finally converted a great qualifying into a great race as he took victory in the final FIA Formula 3 race of the weekend at the Red Bull Ring.

The ART driver started second and remained there during the opening laps but he was quick to make his move for the lead when DRS was enabled, overtaking Dennis Hauger in the PREMA and storming home from there on.

Hauger though ensured he completed his fantastic weekend by holding off teammate Olli Caldwell on the last lap after a late virtual safety car for debris following contact between Jak Crawford and Jack Doohan while fighting for fifth. Hauger claimed the win in race one and third in race two to see his points lead extend massively.

Caldwell took two podiums from the weekend but PREMA have a big repair job on after Arthur Leclerc and Victor Martins came together on the run to turn four. Leclerc was forced onto the grass and he was unable to stop the car, hurtling into the innocent Clément Novalak who’s race was ended in the gravel trap.

Aleksandr Smolyar made it a very good day for ART in fourth as he lost out to the PREMA’s over the distance but they were all well clear of the chaos for fifth on back and he picked up more valuable points for his championship.

George Russell: “We usually do well on Saturdays but that was on another level”

George Russell secured Williams Racing’s first appearance in Q3 since the 2018 Italian Grand Prix on Saturday afternoon, with the Briton feeling the performance of the FW43B at the Red Bull Ring was on another level compared to normal.

The Mercedes-Benz protégé has been dubbed ‘Mr Saturday’ for a while now thanks to his superb performances in Qualifying, but Qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix saw him make another step up as he made it into the top ten shootout for the first time as a Williams driver.

Russell qualified ninth but will move up to eighth on the grid thanks to a penalty for Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team’s Sebastian Vettel, and even more remarkable, he will start the race on the medium Pirelli tyre after getting through Q2 on that compound.

“Qualifying was pretty special; we usually do well on Saturdays but that was on another level,” said Russell.  “I had a lot of confidence in the car, which really helped when it came to nailing my Q3 lap with only one shot.

“P9 in any circumstances is a great place to be, but starting on the mediums with a few cars ahead on the soft tyres puts us in a strong position for the race and hopefully gives us a real advantage when it comes to making strategy decisions.

Pierre Gasly: “Sixth is another strong performance for us”

Pierre Gasly was pleased with another top six grid slot on Saturday, particularly after the Frenchman has not felt as comfortable behind the wheel of the AT-02 as in previous races at the Red Bull Ring.

The Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda driver says the consistency the team has shown in recent races is very much a positive, with Gasly now having taken sixth on the grid in four of the past five races.

Gasly, who retired on lap one of the Styrian Grand Prix last weekend after contact with Charles Leclerc, is hoping for better luck this Sunday, and he knows strategy will be key, particularly with the one-time race winner starting on the soft compound tyre.

“It feels like every weekend we’re Qualifying in a similar position and I’m really happy with that, sixth is another strong performance for us, so today is a good day,” said Gasly.  

“I haven’t been as comfortable in the car this weekend for some reason, so going into Quali we had a bit of an unknown, which is why I’m really pleased we managed to make it work this afternoon.

“The gaps here are very small and our performance in qualifying wasn’t great” – Toto Wolff

Toto Wolff felt the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team did not translate the form they showed in final practice on Saturday morning into the kind of result they were hoping for in Qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton was only able to qualify fourth, with team-mate Valtteri Bottas fifth as Max Verstappen swept to a third consecutive pole position.  Lando Norris and Sergio Pérez also managed to get between the pole sitting Red Bull Racing driver and the two Mercedes drivers.

Wolff, the Team Principal and CEO at Mercedes, says there is a need to continue improving the car after ending three-tenths behind Verstappen in Q3, but the team feel they will be in a better position when it comes to race pace on Sunday.

“What started as a good day in FP3 we couldn’t translate into a good qualifying session,” said Wolff.  “The gaps here are very small and our performance in qualifying wasn’t great, and that showed in the final result.

“We need to analyse whether a slip-stream could have helped us but overall, we just need to continue to develop the performance of the car.

Lewis Hamilton: “Red Bull seemed to step forwards and we stepped backwards”

Lewis Hamilton says this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix has been more challenging for the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team than last weekend’s Styrian Grand Prix, with the reigning World Champion only fourth on the grid for Sunday’s race.

Hamilton started on the front row seven days ago at the Red Bull Ring, but Qualifying this time around saw him end behind title rival Max Verstappen of Red Bull Racing, as well as McLaren F1 Team’s Lando Norris and the second Red Bull of Sergio Pérez.

The Briton hopes to move forward on race day on Sunday, but he knows Mercedes need to improve if they are to take the championship fight to Verstappen and Red Bull this season.

“This weekend is more of a challenge than it was already last week and we continue to lack pace,” revealed Hamilton.  “We tried everything to get more out of the car but the underlying pace just isn’t good enough at the moment, so we’ve got to really find performance in the following races.

“I don’t know if McLaren brought an upgrade but they were mega quick today so great job from Lando. We’ve just got to try and improve, we’ve still got a long way to go.

Seidl Praises Norris as McLaren Secure First Front Row Start for Nine Years

Andreas Seidl was delighted to see Lando Norris secure his maiden front row grid slot on Saturday afternoon at the Red Bull Ring, with the Briton giving the McLaren F1 Team their first top two starting place for nine years.

Norris was only 0.048 seconds away from taking a shock pole position, but the young Briton’s lap fell just short of the time set by Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen, who will start the Austrian Grand Prix from the very front of the grid.

Seidl, the Team Principal of the Woking-based team, was pleased with the way Norris performed during the Qualifying hour, with the Briton improving on every run he completed.

“It’s been nine years since McLaren has qualified on the front row, so P2 today for Lando is a great result for the entire team and our colleagues at Mercedes HPP,” said Seidl.  

“A reward for the hard work that everyone has been putting in over the last month to keep improving the car and make this possible today. Lando’s been flying, continuously improving with every single lap all through the qualifying sessions.”

Lando Norris: Second on the Grid “a big achievement for us as a team but also for myself”

Lando Norris was the surprise of Qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix on Saturday, with the Briton ending just 0.048 seconds away from pole position but with his first front row start in Formula 1.

The McLaren F1 Team racer will join Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen on the first row of the grid on Sunday at the Red Bull Ring, with his final flying lap getting him extremely close to a maiden pole position.

Norris felt he got as much out of the MCL35M as he could in Qualifying, with the Briton managing to beat the second Red Bull of Sergio Pérez, as well as the two Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.

“Very happy! My best result in qualifying in Formula 1, so a big achievement for us as a team but also for myself,” said Norris.  “It was one of the best laps I’ve done.

“To only be half a tenth off pole is a great achievement for everyone. It makes you miss it from your early career! I don’t think we could’ve done a lot more, so P2 is awesome for us and a great position to start from tomorrow.

Dixon Fastest in Mid-Ohio Final Practice

Chip Ganassi Racing‘s Scott Dixon went fastest in the brief 30-minute post-qualifying practice session ahead of the Honda Indy 200. Dixon, who qualified fifth for tomorrow’s race, showed that he’s got the pace to compete tomorrow with a lap time of 1:08.025 on the red-walled alternate tyre.

Colton Herta was the model of consistency, matching his second place qualifying effort with a second place finish in final practice. Across all three sessions today, Herta has not finished outside of the top three in any of them, showing good pace in the increasing temperatures.

Romain Grosjean recovered from a less than ideal qualifying to put together a strong lap and finish third, the highest up the scoring sheets he’s been all weekend. Grosjean was raced hard by fellow ex-Formula 1 driver Marcus Ericsson late in the session and had choice words for the Swede over the radio after he pushed him off track in turn five, but the team said they will show him in the race tomorrow. Ericsson finished the session in eighth place.

Another ex-F1 driver found themselves fourth fastest, Carlin‘s Max Chilton. Chilton shot to the top of the charts late in the session, and finished the day with a top result for the small, single-car operation.

James Hinchcliffe added to his top-ten qualifying effort with a fifth place finish in final practice, the last of the Andretti Autosport cars in the top ten. Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay finished the session in eighteenth and thirteenth respectively.

Newgarden Takes Top Spot in Mid-Ohio Qualifying, Third Consecutive Pole

Team Penske‘s Josef Newgarden made it a three-peat of pole positions this season, out-dueling Colton Herta in Q3 to take the pole for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio by just 0.0031 sec. Newgarden was able to get his final lap in after Herta had finished, and gets the best track position at a track where that is so critical.

The first group of Q1 started the session off with a bang, as plenty of controversy surrounded the finish of the session. Meyer Shank Racing‘s Jack Harvey, who was second fastest in the session to that point, spun at turn nine and stopped at the edge of the track just behind the timing and scoring line for qualifiyng. For a period of time no local caution was displayed as the last two cars of Alexander Rossi and Simon Pagenaud passed by.

Rossi slowed significantly on what would have been his fastest lap, and was set to miss out on Q2. Pagenaud did not slow down nearly as much in the local yellow zone and was able to improve into the top six of the group. Rob Edwards, Rossi’s strategist, said that they should go through and Pagenaud and Harvey should be penalized for not slowing down under the caution and causing the caution respectively. After much deliberation by the stewards, all three drivers were penalized and had their best lap times invalidated, with Rossi’s best being enough to see him through to Q2 while Pagenaud and Harvey were eliminated.

Will Power had struggles in this session as he needed an ECU replacement, but his crew got him on track with four minutes left which was enough for him to advance. The returning Felix Rosenqvist was also eliminated in this group after putting down what he thought was one of his best laps ever at Mid-Ohio.

Rosenqvist’s Arrow McLaren SP teammate Patricio O’Ward faced the same struggles, as he too was eliminated in Q1 as a part of the second group. O’Ward struggled with the higher track temperatures after going fastest in the morning practice session and will start twentieth. Also eliminated were Romain Grosjean, making his first exit in Q1 at a road course in IndyCar, and fellow rookie Scott McLaughlin who was knocked out at the very end of the session. IndyCar debutant Ryan Norman was also eliminated in this session. He will start last for Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing.

Matt Brabham wins SST Mid-Ohio Race 1 amid post-race fight

Matt Brabham finally broke through for his first win of the 2021 Stadium Super Trucks season, but public attention focused on Bill Hynes and Bo LeMastus. As Brabham celebrated winning Race #1 of the Honda Indy 200 weekend at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Hynes and LeMastus traded punches and even threw a helmet and steering wheel in response to LeMastus’ driving.

LeMastus started on the pole ahead of Jett Noland, while Hynes was third. Brabham, as the Fastest Qualifier, was at the rear.

As Brabham and Robby Gordon teamed up in the draft, LeMastus led Jett Noland through the opening corners before Jerett Brooks took the lead in turn four. LeMastus slipped down to fourth after Aaron Bambach and Robert Stout passed him prior to the first lap’s conclusion. Noland, Gordon, and Brabham also made overtakes on lap two.

By lap three, Gordon and Brabham joined Stout and Noland in the fight for third. As the next lap began, the Gordon/Brabham tandem applied pressure on Stout; Gordon tried a pass in the Keyhole but ran wide before clearing Stout after the jump. Brabham made his own move as Noland slid into the gravel. At the competition caution, Brooks led Bambach, Gordon, and Brabham.

Coming to the restart, LeMastus lined up aside Brabham before filing in front of Max Gordon. Bambach subsequently took the lead from Brooks with Robby Gordon in tow, but Brooks received drafting help from Gordon to regain the position on lap six. Brabham and Stout passed Bambach as the next lap started.