There are worse things to do in iso than watch actual live motorsport on TV.
And the many millions of people watching across the world were given a great qualifying session with plenty of talking points as F1 finally returned in Austria.
Mercedes finished head and shoulders above the rest, locking out the front row.
Meanwhile, Ferrari had an absolute shocker with Sebastian Vettel being knocked out of Q2 and Charles Leclerc only able to qualify seventh.
The Scuderia have not brought any upgrades to the Red Bull Ring. Those will come when F1 goes to Hungary but, for now, the Ferrari is significantly off the pace.
Sebastian Vettel’s fastest lap of a 1:04.206 set in Q2 was 0.539 seconds slower than the lap he had set in Q2 at the Red Bull Ring last year, exemplifying the struggle that Ferrari are going through this weekend.
“Of course, it’s a surprise,” Vettel said after qualifying. “We thought we had a little more in hand.”
Ferrari’s race pace wasn’t too strong in Friday practice so it could be a difficult race for them tomorrow.
There were no such problems for Mercedes, who just got quicker as the session went on. Valtteri Bottas took pole position with a new track record of a 1:02.939.
The Finn’s lap was just 0.012 seconds quicker than the one set by his teammate, Lewis Hamilton.
Red Bull were already expected to be Mercedes’ closest challengers this weekend, something which they were able to do with Max Verstappen qualifying third. Just to show Mercedes’ dominance though, Verstappen was over half a second slower than Bottas.
Red Bull do have a strategic card to play tomorrow as Verstappen was able to get through to Q3 having set his fastest time in Q2 on the medium compound tyre. The tyre a driver uses to set their fastest time in Q2 is the one they use to start the race with.
This means that Verstappen will be able to take a longer first stint in tomorrow’s race compared to the two Mercedes, who are both starting on the soft tyres. This may bring the overcut strategy into play for Red Bull in what should be a one-stop race.
A pleasant surprise came when Lando Norris moved up to fourth on the timesheets to achieve the best qualifying performance of his career.
Elsewhere in the midfield, it was great to see Lance Stroll qualifying ninth. The Canadian’s qualifying performances left a lot to be desired last year so this is a welcome improvement, especially as Racing Point have a competitive car this season. Stroll’s teammate Sergio Perez qualified sixth.
Mercedes are the ones to beat tomorrow but Max Verstappen will be hoping that a differing strategy can help get him a third consecutive race victory at the Red Bull Ring. Ferrari will be trying to make the best of what is a bad situation for them and get as many points on the board as possible.
McLaren and Racing Point will be aiming to do what was unimaginable just a few months ago and finish in front of at least one of the Ferraris. That scenario isn’t completely out of the question.