ÖAustria, Red Bull Ring, thousands in the stands in orange, cheers fill the huge area in Styria, people are in each other’s arms, no distance, no masks. Vaccinated and convalescent people have been allowed to take a seat since July 1st. And if there are 60,000. Everything as before? This is what it looked like on Saturday during the Formula 1 qualification training for the Austrian Grand Prix this Sunday (3 p.m. in the FAZ live ticker for Formula 1 and on Sky).
And yet there was a big difference to the past when Max Verstappen parked his car in the Parc fermé, to the delight of many compatriots. Where was Mercedes, where was the champion Lewis Hamilton? Fourth. His team-mate Valtteri Bottas is fifth. In between, the scene saw an overjoyed surprise guest. In an orange car, but from the wrong brand from the point of view of the Verstappen fans. Lando Norris jumped in the McLaren “two steps” forward to second place, just 0.048 seconds behind Verstappen and ahead of Sergio Perez in the second Red Bull.
All five start on the same, the harder tire compound. A repetition of the first Austrian tour of last Sunday is announced. Verstappen for the second? “The starting position is good,” said the leader of the drivers’ championship, “but it won’t be a walk in the park.” However, Hamilton is certain: “It should be easy for him.” Perhaps he wants to lull the competition into safety.
Trouble with Fernando Alonso
Sebastian Vettel’s path still seems difficult. On Saturday he convinced again with good laps in the Aston Martin and finished eighth. But because he unintentionally stopped Fernando Alonso in the Alpine in the second run, he was threatened with being relegated to the starting line-up. The Spaniard did not personally resent the blockade in turn nine, Vettel had gestured out of the car to apologize.
The anger ran deep: “We missed the opportunity to be fifth or sixth. That was our best car this season, ”Alonso told Sky TV:“ Now I’m 14th and I can almost forget the race. ”But the two-time world champion also mentioned who he blamed:“ It’s badly managed been. “
He was probably thinking of Vettel’s engineers, who have an overview and have to instruct their driver on a “slow lap” when a pilot approaches at qualifying speed: “I saw him in the mirror,” said Vettel, “then the radio message came, I can don’t vanish into thin air If I were to be punished, then everyone would have to be punished because everyone was driving slowly where we should not be driving slowly. “
Vettel saw eighth place more or less as “maximum”. He doesn’t see the choice of soft tires as a disadvantage: “Our long run was ok and we wanted to start on the softer tires anyway.” Mick Schumacher stayed on course in the internal duel on Saturday as well. For the eighth time in the ninth attempt, he left his teammate at the Haas, Nikita Mazepin, behind him, this time with a lead of 0.5 seconds on one lap. More than 19th place, penultimate, was not possible in Austria. “That was our pace today, yes,” said Schumacher, “in the race, the cooler temperature could perhaps benefit us.”