Leclerc takes Austria pole, Vettel suffers mechanical issue
Charles Leclerc has claimed pole position at the Austrian Grand Prix as Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel failed to set a time in Qualifying 3 due to a mechanical problem.
Leclerc appeared the driver to beat throughout qualifying and so it was that his 1:03.003s was enough to better Lewis Hamilton by two tenths of a second for a second career pole.
Hamilton, however, faces an investigation for possibly impeding Kimi Raikkonen during Q1, making Max Verstappen a potential front row starter.
Neither Renault made it out of Q2, with Daniel Ricciardo only qualifying 14th fastest.
The Ferraris showed handy pace on medium compound tyres in Q1 while both Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas made second runs in their Mercedes in order to make sure of their progression out of that 18-minute stanza.
Early in that hit-out, a slow-moving Hamilton ended up driving across the track at Turn 3 in a bid to avoid holding up Raikkonen, although the Alfa Romeo driver’s lap still appeared to have been ruined.
There was also a close call at the end of Q1 when Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat had to suddenly abort a flying lap at the penultimate corner when he came across several slow-moving cars.
The Russian missed out on an opportunity to reach Q2, while George Russell was handed a three-position grid penalty as punishment for the incident.
Kvyat was joined on the outer by Racing Point’s Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll, and Williams’ Russell and Robert Kubica.
Ferrari locked themselves into a different strategy to their main rivals when Leclerc and Vettel topped Q2 on soft compound tyres.
Hamilton, Verstappen, and Bottas filled third through fifth on the medium compound, which they will therefore start on in the race.
Kevin Magnussen scraped into the top 10 despite throwing away his final lap with a lock-up at Turn 5, but Haas team-mate Romain Grosjean ended up on the outer having damaged his front wing on the Turn 10 exit kerbing.
Neither Nico Hulkenberg nor team-mate Ricciardo improved on their second flying laps with the Australian electing to abort his lap.
Hulkenberg was 12th but has a five-position grid penalty to be served for taking a new power unit.
Meanwhile an abundance of mechanics had surrounded the left sidepod of Vettel’s car, and the German remained in the garage even when the rest had re-entered the circuit for Q3.
Vettel stepped out of the car before the session was done, with Ferrari subsequently reporting a problem with the air pressure line to the engine.
Out on track, Leclerc led the timesheets after the first runs in Q3 before further improving on his lap time to break the outright lap record set by Bottas last year.
Verstappen finished third in his Red Bull, four tenths off the pace but splitting the Mercedes.
Magnussen was fifth fastest but will start the race from 10th position due to a penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change.
Lando Norris impressed again by securing sixth spot in his McLaren, ahead of the Alfa Romeo duo of Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi.
Pierre Gasly was over seven tenths away from team-mate Verstappen in ninth, and Vettel officially 10th.
The 71-lap Austrian Grand Prix starts on Sunday at 2310 AEST.
|3||33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing Honda||1:03.807||1:03.835||1:03.439|
|5||20||Kevin Magnussen||Haas Ferrari||1:04.778||1:04.466||1:04.072|
|6||4||Lando Norris||McLaren Renault||1:04.361||1:04.211||1:04.099|
|7||7||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari||1:04.615||1:04.056||1:04.166|
|8||99||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari||1:04.450||1:04.194||1:04.179|
|9||10||Pierre Gasly||Red Bull Racing Honda||1:04.412||1:03.988||1:04.199|
|11||8||Romain Grosjean||Haas Ferrari||1:04.552||1:04.490|
|13||23||Alexander Albon||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda||1:04.708||1:04.665|
|15||55||Carlos Sainz||McLaren Renault||1:04.453||1:13.601|
|16||11||Sergio Perez||Racing Point BWT Mercedes||1:04.789|
|17||18||Lance Stroll||Racing Point BWT Mercedes||1:04.832|
|18||26||Daniil Kvyat||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda||1:05.324|
|19||63||George Russell||Williams Mercedes||1:05.904|
|20||88||Robert Kubica||Williams Mercedes||1:06.206|