Mercedes had been the whole story in Formula One in 2014, winning every pole and every race. Until the Canadian Grand Prix on June 8, no other team had even led a lap.
Saturday at the renamed Österreichring the Williams team changed all that.
Williams, once dominant in Formula one, had been mired mid-pack for many years, until they acquired Finnish newcomer Valtteri Bottas and ex-Ferrari driver Felipe Mass (along with his ex-Ferrari engineer, Rob Smedley.)
At Montreal, Bottas became the first non-Mercedes driver to lead a lap, albeit due to pit-stop rotation. Saturday in Austria at what is now called the Red Bull Ring, Massa scored pole and Bottas qualified second, with Mercedes driver and points leader Nico Rosberg third. Mercedes’ other driver, Lewis Hamilton, will start ninth.
Bottas had the quickest lap through most of the final qualifying session. Lewis Hamilton went out with five minutes in the session and put in two fast sectors, then ran over the track limit at Turn Eight, invalidating the lap.
Nico Rosberg went out for a final flying lap in the final minute with Hamilton just ahead. Hamilton lost the rear end in Turn Two spinning off track, which forced Rosberg to hesitate, costing him his flying lap.
With the clock run out and everyone else parked, Felipe Massa finished his flying lap, besting team mate Bottas and Nico Rosberg.
It was Massa’s first pole since 2008, while he was with Ferrari, and the first time since 2003 that Williams had both cars on the front row.
“I’m so happy with what’s happened today with us and our team. It was such a great moment,” Massa said int he post-qualifying press conference on NBCSN. “It was already long time when I had my last pole position, which was in Brazil, 2008. So, such an incredible moment.
“For sure we need to concentrate on the race tomorrow, you know, it’s a difficult and important race for us. But I think it’s a great moment. The best place to be is here in the first place.”
On its namesake track Red Bull Racing had a less-than-memorable day. Daniel Ricciardo managed a respectable fifth, but four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel didn’t even make it into the final qualifying session and will start 12th.