Jul 2, 2016
Prior to qualifying, teams had one final practice (FP3) on the 4.326-kilometer (2.688-mile) nine-turn Red Bull Ring to prepare for Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix in Spielberg. It was a productive effort for Haas F1 Team, as both Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutiérrez logged significant laps during the hour-long session under a partly cloudy sky and warm temperatures.
Gutiérrez turned 22 laps with a best time of 1:08.475 to place him 12th quickest. Grosjean ran 21 laps with a best time of 1:08.550 to earn the 14th fastest spot. Both drivers shared the same tire strategy. They used the Pirelli P Zero Yellow soft tire for their installation laps and then switched to the P Zero Red supersoft tire for their first timed stints before completing the session on the P Zero Purple ultrasoft tire. It was on the Red supersofts that Gutiérrez and Grosjean set their fastest laps.
The fastest driver in FP3 was Sebastian Vettel of Scuderia Ferrari. His lap of 1:07.098 set a new track record, bettering the mark set just a day before when Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg turned a lap of 1:07.373 in FP1. Coming into Austria, the existing track record was 1:07.908, set by Michael Schumacher in 2003 when he was with Scuderia Ferrari. The top-seven drivers in FP3 were faster than Schumacher’s time and 16 drivers shot past Schumacher’s 13-year-old mark in qualifying. Rosberg, who topped both practice sessions on Friday and was looking to continue his stand atop the charts, crashed in turn two with just over 20 minutes remaining in FP3, resulting in a 10-minute red-flag stoppage.
Among the 16 drivers in qualifying who broke Schumacher’s old record were Gutiérrez and Grosjean. Both drivers moved on to Q2 for the fourth straight time, where only the top-16 drivers from Q1 advance. Gutiérrez scored the 14th-fastest time (1:07.660) in Q1 during his second stint on a new set of Purple ultrasofts. Grosjean was just behind his teammate with the 15th-fastest time (1:07.662), also earned on his second run with a fresh set of ultrasofts. The session was interrupted with a red flag for Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kyvat, who crashed at the second corner, leaving just 1:44 on the clock at the end of Q1.
Q2 began dry, but rain hit the circuit at the end of the 15-minute session. Gutiérrez got in two runs before weather became a factor, setting his best time (1:07.578) on his third lap using the ultrasoft tire. This put him 11th fastest, earning Gutiérrez his best starting spot of the year. Grosjean also utilized the ultrasofts in Q2 before rain engulfed the track, scoring his fastest time (1:07.850) on his 19th lap to place him 13th for the Austrian Grand Prix. It was a solid comeback for Grosjean, who spun into the turn-six gravel at the beginning of Q2. The off-track excursion damaged the floor of his VF-16, but crew members quickly repaired the car to allow Grosjean to turn some fast laps prior to the rain.
Pole went to Lewis Hamilton who turned a 1:07.922 to beat his Mercedes teammate, Rosberg, by .543 of a second in a wet-to-dry final Q3 session. It was Hamilton’s 54th career pole, his fifth this season and his second at the Red Bull Ring. Hamilton broke the track record set by Vettel in FP3 when the reigning world champion lapped the circuit in a lightning-quick 1:06.228 during Q2. While Rosberg ended up second in Q3, he’ll take a five-place grid penalty on Sunday for a gearbox change, necessitated after his crash earlier in the day during final practice. Rosberg has won the past two Formula One races at the Red Bull Ring.
Romain Grosjean, Driver No. 8, Haas F1 Team
“I had hoped for better. On my first run in Q2 on scrubbed tires, the rear end completely went into turn six and I went into the gravel. I damaged quite a bit of the floor. By the time we repaired it to go out, some of the rain had started, which impacted my fastest lap time. We could’ve done better. It’s a bit of a shame, but we’re not in a bad place for the race. I think we have a good balance for Sunday. We’ve been working well on that. I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
Esteban Gutiérrez, Driver No. 21, Haas F1 Team
“I’m pretty happy as I made my best qualifying run of the season. It was fun to get the maximum out there on track. It wasn’t easy coming from Friday, where we had very limited running. Going into final practice, I was not completely comfortable with how the tires were working, so it was quite a challenge to head directly into qualifying. In the end, it was pretty fun putting in some good laps in Q1 and Q2. Tomorrow, I’ll be aiming for points. This is our target and I’ll be fighting all the way.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal, Haas F1 Team
“Very exciting qualifying for us today. A lot was happening, which is great for the spectators and great for us to keep us on our toes. Both drivers did a great job and, in the end, we qualified 11th and 13th, which is a very good result for us. We were six thousandths of a second out of P10, so we’re getting close. The weather is very temperamental here. As we saw today, it can start sunny and then quickly change, but we are happy with the circuit and I think everything is out there for us tomorrow. We would’ve liked to have been in Q3. However, we’re looking forward to the race tomorrow and hopefully getting back in the points.”