Sports Desk, Jul 11 (efe-epa).- Six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) finished first Saturday in qualifying for the Styrian Grand Prix to increase his career record for number of pole positions to 89.
The Briton, hoping this year to equal Michael Schumacher’s mark of seven world titles, posted a fastest lap of 1.19:273 on a wet track at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria, which was also the venue for last weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix.
Hamilton’s teammate, Valtteri Bottas, currently leads the 2020 World Drivers’ Championship with 25 points as a result of the Finn’s triumph last Sunday in the opening event of the coronavirus-altered 2020 Formula One calendar.
Dutchman Max Verstappen (Red Bull), who was forced to retire from the Austrian Grand Prix – which he won in 2018 and 2019 – due to electrical problems with his car, had a best lap of 1.20:489 on Saturday to claim the second position.
The third spot went to Carlos Sainz, whose previous best starting position was fifth. Already signed to replace Sebastian Vettel next season with Ferrari, the Spaniard says he is determined to make his final campaign with McLaren one to remember.
Bottas was fourth, followed by Esteban Ocon (Renault). Lando Norris (McLaren), Alex Albon (Red Bull), Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri), Daniel Ricciardo (Renault) and Vettel rounded out the top 10.
Ricciardo subsequently moved up to eighth after a grid penalty pushed Norris down to ninth.
Vettel’s Ferrari teammate, Charles Leclerc, finished 11th in qualifying and was later dropped to 14th for an infraction, which will complicate his chance of duplicating or bettering his second-place finish in the Austrian Grand Prix.
Heavy rain in Spielberg forced race managers to cancel Free Practice 3 and the start of qualifying was delayed 45 minutes.
“What a tricky day, the weather’s obviously incredibly difficult out there for all of us. A lot of the time you can’t even see where you’re going. I had one big moment the lap before the last, a big aquaplane which definitely had my heart in my mouth but I was able to improve on the next lap, nice and clean. I love these days,” Hamilton said.
Sainz, who came in fifth in last Sunday’s race, was similarly enthusiastic.
“It’s obviously a very happy and a very good day for me,” he said. “I’m quite pleased that my best qualifying of the year came in these conditions because I love driving in the wet and I’ve always enjoyed myself a lot.”
Formula One have said that their aim is to come as close as possible to a normal season in 2020. The schedule now includes 10 races.
So far, the only other track set to host two events is the United Kingdom’s Silverstone Circuit. EFE