Mercedes chief fears collision as Valtteri Bottas beats Lewis Hamilton for Spain pole

Mercedes' Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas celebrates after securing the pole position after the qualifying session at the Circuit de Catalunya in Montmelo in the outskirts of Barcelona. (AFP)
Updated 11 May 2019

Mercedes chief fears collision as Valtteri Bottas beats Lewis Hamilton for Spain pole

  • Crash saw both Mercedes men out of the race three years ago
  • Bottas completed a hat-trick of pole positions Saturday when he outpaced Hamilton

MONTMELO, Spain: Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff admitted Saturday that he fears a possible reprise of Lewis Hamilton’s spectacular 2016 opening lap collision with Nico Rosberg in this Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix.
Wolff winced at the memory of the crash that saw both Mercedes men out of the race three years ago.
“I hope we will not be coming back to 2016,” he said.
“These guys (Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas) are in a totally different place with each other and they know how important it is to stay out ahead. Barcelona is a track where it is so difficult to overtake.”
But, he admitted, he was concerned.
“A bit nervous is probably the right way to describe my state of mind,” he said.
Hamilton and Rosberg’s crash in 2016 gifted a maiden victory to Max Verstappen on debut with Red Bull.
Bottas on Saturday grabbed pole position by beating Hamilton by six-tenths of a second in final qualifying, leaving them with a Mercedes front row lockout.
Wolff’s anxieties were raised by seeing the battle in Baku last month, when the pair fought for the lead on the opening lap at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
“We might have a little chat about that,” said Wolff, of his plans for Sunday’s pre-race briefing.
“But they know exactly what to do and not do.”
Bottas completed a hat-trick of pole positions Saturday when he outpaced Hamilton in a tightly-contested qualifying.
The Finn, who leads defending five-time champion Hamilton by a single point in this year’s title race, completed a treble after taking the prime grid position in both China and Azerbaijan.
Bottas clocked a stunning track record lap in 1min 15.406sec to finish six-tenths clear of his teammate in the top 10 shootout on a dry and gusty day at the Circuit de Catalunya.
Four-time champion Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari was third ahead of Max Verstappen of Red Bull, Charles Leclerc in the second Ferrari and Pierre Gasly in the second Red Bull.
Romain Grosjean was seventh ahead of his Haas teammate Kevin Magnussen, Russian Daniil Kvyat of Toro Rosso and Daniel Ricciardo in his Renault.
“I really enjoyed that,” said Bottas. “The adrenaline rush you get from laps like that is great so I am really pleased.
“The season has started well, the way I hoped for, and I feel better in the car.”
Hamilton congratulated Bottas and conceded that he had been unable to extract the maximum from his car on a circuit where he was hoping to land his own hat-trick of three straight Spanish poles.
“My final laps in Q3 just weren’t strong enough. Ultimately, I didn’t do the job,” Hamilton said.
“It’s great to have another Mercedes 1-2, but I can reverse it tomorrow that would be great.”
Vettel was also disappointed as Ferrari failed to deliver the pace that could bring an end to Mercedes domination.
“The car doesn’t feel too bad, but obviously we are not quick enough,” he said. “It seems to be more than an achilles heel here... I spoke to Valtteri and they were happy with their car.”
In cooler conditions than on Friday, the opening Q1 session saw several cars struggling for grip, not helped by a gusty wind.
Nico Hulkenberg ran off track in his Renault at turn four and after traversing a gravel-trap hit the barriers. He managed to recover and, after pitting for a new front wing, rejoined the fray.
His efforts were in vain, however, and he was eliminated in 16th place along with Lance Stroll of Racing Point, Antonio Giovinazzi of Sauber and the two Williams men, British rookie George Russell and Robert Kubica.
“Thanks again everyone for getting the car ready and apologies for FP3,” said Russell on team radio, referring to his final practice crash that required a gearbox change and will land him a grid penalty.
As if to signal his intentions, Hamilton was first out for Q3, but it was Bottas who showed the way in 1:15.406 to take pole on his first run, six-tenths ahead of his Mercedes teammate.


Australia salvage a draw in second Ashes Test at Lord’s, stay 1-0 ahead of England

Updated 4 min 56 sec ago

Australia salvage a draw in second Ashes Test at Lord’s, stay 1-0 ahead of England

LONDON: Australia defied the absence of star batsman Steve Smith because of a concussion and more devastating spells of pace bowling by Jofra Archer to hold out for a draw in the second Ashes Test against England on Sunday.
Set an improbable victory target of 267 off 48 overs at Lord’s, the Australians quickly slumped to 47-3 but a fourth-wicket stand of 85 between Marnus Labuschagne (59) and Travis Head (42 not out) helped push them to safety.
Australia lost three more wickets in a five-over stretch to keep the match alive as the light faded, but managed to survive to 154-6 at the end.
Australia retain a 1-0 lead in the five-match series.
Labuschagne had an interesting day. He only found out he’d be playing as Test cricket’s first-ever concussion substitute when Smith was withdrawn from the team early Sunday after waking up with a headache and feeling groggy after being hit in the neck by an Archer bumper on Saturday.
Labuschagne came to the middle with Australia struggling on 19-2 after 5.3 overs and, off the second ball he faced, was hit on the grille of his helmet by another vicious delivery from Archer. The batsman dropped to the ground, was checked out by medical staff and required a new helmet.
In a blistering spell by Archer, balls flew past Labuschagne but he survived and looked more comfortable in the final session as England’s hopes began to dwindle at the home of cricket. He finally departed, somewhat controversially, when England captain Joe Root was adjudged to have got his fingers under a diving catch at midwicket from Labuschagne’s sweep.
It was Labuschagne’s second half-century in his sixth Test and he could stay in the team for the third Test starting Thursday at Headingley, with Smith’s availability in doubt.
With Australia currently holding the Ashes urn, the English need to win two of the final three tests to take it off their fierce rivals.
Archer’s performance at Lord’s on his test debut will give England real hope, though. He was a permanent menace, taking 2-59 off 29 overs in the first innings and then 3-32 off 15 overs in the second.
A day after flooring Smith with a vicious 92 mph delivery, the Barbados-born quick removed David Warner for 5 — his fourth straight single-figure score this series — and then Usman Khawaja for 2 to catches behind the wicket.
He peppered Bancroft and Labuschagne with missiles but they lasted until tea.
Bancroft (16) was trapped lbw by spinner Jack Leach early in the final session but England could only make further inroads when it was too late.
After Labuschagne’s departure, Leach removed Matthew Wade for 1 before Joe Denly produced a sensational one-handed catch at midwicket off Archer to take out Australia captain Tim Paine for 4.
Head, who was dropped on 22 by Jason Roy at second slip, persevered and Archer had to be withdrawn from the attack late on because of the poor light. He put his hat back on, and Australia’s players could breathe a sigh of relief.
Earlier, Ben Stokes brought up his seventh Test century before England declared their second innings on 258-5 — the same total the team was all out for in its first innings.
Stokes was unbeaten on 115 after hitting 11 fours and three sixes at the ground where he helped win the Cricket World Cup for England barely a month ago. Jonny Bairstow was not out on 30.
England resumed Sunday on 96-4 in its second innings and added 162 runs before declaring midway through the second session.