“Every time it rains in F1 I feel very comfortable,” he smiled. “Actually, I didn’t have a new set of wets left for Q3, so it might have been even better.” Another quarter of a second would have had him vying with Sainz for third.
It has been far from a straightforward weekend for Norris so far. Chest and back pain from the compression of braking g-forces restricted him in Friday practice but was assisted in qualifying by a combination of the medical cabinet, massage and the reduced forces at work in the wet. He conceded though, that 70-odd laps on a dry circuit tomorrow may pose a challenge.
Snapping at his heels with one of the performances of the day was Pierre Gasly in the first AlphaTauri, with Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari rounding out the top 10 after Seb pipped team mate Charles Leclerc to the final Q2 spot.
Starting 11th, last year’s pole man would normally be able to console himself as first man outside the top 10 with the freedom to run an offset tyre strategy. But, with qualifying wet, Leclerc won’t even have the benefit of that small saving grace. In cars with better race than qualifying pace but poor straightline speed, Maranello’s finest face a frustrating Sunday afternoon.
Heroes of the hour? Lewis, for sure. Sainz? Yes. Ocon? Yep. Gasly? Definitely. But maybe George Russell deserves the loudest applause. While the rain was never going to level the pitch enough for Russell to compete where he belongs, it did so sufficiently for him to put a Williams 12th on the grid.
“The car was moving around a lot. And it was so hard to see that my engineers were having to tell me where other cars were, but I loved it,” he enthused.
Had Russell managed to find just another nine-hundredths, he’d even have made Q3! While it’s fantastic to have a fighter like Alonso on his way back to F1 with Renault, and way too early for Vettel to be forced to vacate the premises, Russell is a man that deserves a seat in a top car. Bottas may be a decent guy and a quick driver but you do even wonder whether, a little way down the road, George could yet emerge as the biggest threat to the fellow who once more sits imperiously at the top of the time sheet.
Follow Motor Sport for in-depth Styrian GP coverage from Chris Medland and Mark Hughes
Sign up to the F1 newsletter
Hamilton’s wet-weather masterclass, from Larkhall in 1998
2020 Styrian Grand Prix qualifying results
|1||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||1min 19.273sec|
|2||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||1min 20.489sec|
|3||Carlos Sainz||McLaren||1min 20.671sec|
|4||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes||1min 20.701sec|
|5||Esteban Ocon||Renault||1min 20.922sec|
|6||Lando Norris||McLaren||1min 20.925sec|
|7||Alex Albon||Red Bull||1min 21.011sec|
|8||Pierre Gasly||AlphaTauri||1min 21.028sec|
|9||Daniel Ricciardo||Renault||1min 21.192sec|
|10||Sebastian Vettel||Ferrari||1min 21.651sec|
|11||Charles Leclerc||Ferrari||1min 19.628sec|
|12||George Russell||Williams||1min 19.636sec|
|13||Lance Stroll||Racing Point||1min 19.645sec|
|14||Daniil Kvyat||AlphaTauri||1min 19.717sec|
|15||Kevin Magnussen||Haas||1min 20.211sec|
|16||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo||1min 21.372sec|
|17||Sergio Perez||Racing Point||1min 21.607sec|
|18||Nicholas Latifi||Williams||1min 21.759sec|
|19||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo||1min 21.831sec|