FELIPE MASSA PUTS THE WILLIAMS ON POLE FOR THE AUSTRIAN GRAND PRIX!
(Reuters) – Brazilian Felipe Massa seized his first Formula One pole position since 2008 as a resurgent Williams swept the front row of the starting grid on Saturday in qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix.
Finnish team mate Valtteri Bottas took second place for the Mercedes-powered former world champions with championship leader Nico Rosberg third fastest for Mercedes.
It was the first time this season that dominant Mercedes had not taken pole and the race will see Williams’ first start from the front of the grid since Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado in Spain in 2012.
“Williams are back to the top, they are back to fight. I am pleased for me and the team as well,” declared an emotional Massa whose last pole was with Ferrari at his home grand prix before finishing that season as runner-up.
“After a long time I hope this is just the beginning of great possibilities. I hope to be in this position again,” added the Brazilian who suffered near-fatal head injuries in a freak accident in Hungary in 2009.
Britain’s Lewis Hamilton, Rosberg’s team mate and closest championship rival who is 22 points behind the German after seven races, had a nightmare session.
The 2008 world champion will start ninth after his first flying lap of the revamped Red Bull Ring was disallowed because he exceeded track limits and he then spun on his final attempt.
Red Bull’s quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel fared even worse, qualifying 13th at what counts as a home circuit for the team.
“I’m not happy, let’s put it that way,” said the German. “I think anything is possible tomorrow but surely we are not as quick as we’d like to be.”
Australian team mate Daniel Ricciardo, winner of the previous race in Canada, qualified ahead of Vettel yet again and will start fifth, behind Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso.
The last time two Williams drivers lined up together on the front row was in Germany 11 years ago – the year Austria was last on the calendar.
“I am so happy with what has happened today, with us, our team, it was such a great moment. It is a long time since I last had a pole position,” Massa told reporters.
Bottas also celebrated his best ever qualifying performance.
“It’s a great result for the team. We’ve made progress throughout the year and now we get this result. The hard work is all paying off,” said the Finn.
“It will be a different story tomorrow I think. We have a big, big job to keep the Mercedes cars behind us – and some of the other cars – Ferrari and Red Bull – can do well also.”
(Writing by Alan Baldwin, editing by Tony Jimenez)