They were the fastest cars among all during the winter-testing. They were expected to fire the opening salvo.
And they have responded positively at Spielberg, the 2020 season-opener.
In wasting no time whatsoever to announce that Mercedes mean business, Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas clocked up a blisteringly fast 1:02:939 at the Austrian Grand Prix 2020 to put Mercedes on pole position.
This was his personal best lap-time at the track, an indication of the domineering Silver Arrows power that should caution the rest of the grid.
Following the 2019 Australian Grand Prix winner was six-time world champion and the current defending champion Lewis Hamilton, who finished only marginally behind the pole-sitter, the gap to Valtteri Bottas being only 0.012 seconds.
Great day for Mercedes, who fire the opening salvo
Third in place was Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, a driver who just hasn’t allowed anyone to dominate the home Grand Prix of the Milton Keynes outfit, winning the last two editions of the contest held amid sprawling green mountains and gorgeous Austrian splendour.
Lando Norris, quick throughout the weekend, holding the edge in the battle with his teammate led the rest of the pecking order emerging in fourth, ahead of Alex Albon (P5), Sergio Perez (P6), Charles Leclerc (P7), Carlos Sainz Jr. (P8), Lance Stroll (P9), and Daniel Ricciardo (P10), in that order.
In what was expected to be a tough fight between Mercedes and Red Bull panned out literally in that fashion with Ferrari, who had confirmed they would not be carrying any upgrades until Hungary (due for later this month) having little to say over a weekend where they were struggling in front of the triumvirate of McLaren, Racing Point, and Renault.
Emerging faster of the two Ferrari drivers, Leclerc comfortably usurped Sebastian Vettel (just turned 33 a few hours back), who had a weekend to forget, despite going fourth-fastest in his flying lap during Q1 on Saturday.
Though Ferrari will have, at least, an outside chance to have a go at the top five in the front thanks to Leclerc saving the day, if one could call it like that, Austria became the first occasion where the German failed to qualify for Q3 in five years with Ferrari.
That said, it’s going to be an interesting three-way fight between the likes of Racing Point, McLaren, and Renault with the key highlight during the qualifying being both Racing Point drivers breaking into the top ten.
Such an encouraging sign for a team that showed great pace since Friday’s first-practice, although, in total contrast to those who lagged behind.
Who lagged behind?
While there were flashes of speed and decent pace from the two Williams drivers- Latifi (who marks his F1 debut at Austria) and Russell, both of whom failed to qualify for Q3, it wasn’t such a bright day for the two Alfa Romeos either.
While the experienced Finn Kimi Raikkonen emerged only nineteenth fastest, ahead only of the debutant, it wasn’t all that exciting for Antonio Giovinazzi either, who spun around and went wide into the gravel trap during the dying moments of the final qualifying run.
Having said that, Grosjean, fifteenth, out-qualified his Danish teammate, who begins sixteenth, while the French-Swiss driver trails Esteban Ocon, who’ll start fourteenth on the grid.
There were gains in that regard for the two Alpha Tauri’s with Pierre Gasly, twelfth, beating the ‘Torpedo’ Daniil Kvyat, who begins from thirteenth.
Meanwhile, Sebastian Vettel might feel it’s an outside chance to do something worth remembering as he begins his Austrian challenge from P11.
That being told, the key battles will be the cars lined up at the front.
Honestly speaking, few sights in modern Formula 1 are as exciting as seeing Verstappen beginning well from the front.
And even as the Dutchman won’t begin from the front-end of the grid, he’ll fancy his chances against the Mercedes duo, who he admitted had all the pace needed to put themselves in the top position, as it turned out.
So can Bottas, who conquered his third pole at Austria and, in turn, his twelfth F1 pole, keep his cool and increase the gap to the two chasing cars or will we see an immediate assault by his teammate who’ll vault into the lead seconds after we go green at Austria?
All eyes on Sunday.