Verstappen on pole after red flags interrupt Austrian GP qualifying

Max Verstappen

Max Verstappen has secured pole position for the Formula 1 Austrian Grand Prix in a Qualifying session twice interrupted by red flags.

The Dutchman headed a top three split by less than 0.1s, Charles Leclerc second with Carlos Sainz third.

Lewis Hamilton will line up 10th for Saturday’s Sprint after crashing out in Qualifying 3, while his Mercedes team-mate will start fifth despite also finding the fence to also draw the red flag.

Just over half the field headed out on track as the session began, both McLaren drivers among their number after a difficult Free Practice 1 for both Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo.

The former had a different power unit fitted, though as it came from his pool it did not attract any penalties.

Leclerc laid down an early benchmark with a 1:06.762s, which was quickly bettered by Carlos Sainz with a 1:06.363, only for that to be deleted for track limits at the final corner.

Times quickly changed, with Fernando Alonso, Mick Schumacher, and Kevin Magnussen all rising to the top before Leclerc completed another lap, a 1:06.200s, to reclaim the spot.

Sainz completed a second effort lap soon after, setting a 1:06.397s with a cautious lap to ensure his progression beyond Qualifying 1.

With his first timed lap of the session, Verstappen went fastest with a 1:06.097s, though that was quickly scrubbed out for exceeding track limits at Turn 10.

That left Sergio Perez fastest with a 1:06.143s, before Lewis Hamilton went quickest on a 1:06.079s despite leaving plenty of margin when it came to the edges of the racing surface.

Verstappen returned to the top with a 1:05.852s inside the final five minutes of Qualifying 1, only for both Ferraris to go faster.

Leclerc set a 1:05.419s, 0.241s quicker than his Spanish team-mate.

Inside the final two minutes, Ricciardo found himself in 16th, though the Australian was on track preparing for a final flying lap.

By the time he’d completed his lap he’d slipped to 18th, rising to only 16th with his late effort, confirming his elimination from qualifying.

He was joined on the sidelines by Lance Stroll, Guanyu Zhou, Nicholas Latifi, and Sebastian Vettel whose final flying lap, which still wasn’t good enough to progress, was deleted for track limits.

Qualifying 2 began with Esteban Ocon going fastest initially with a 1:06.488s.

It didn’t stand for long as both Leclerc and then Verstappen improved, the benchmark time coming down to a 1:05.568s.

After George Russell went second fastest, 0.2s down on the lead Red Bull, Hamilton went quickest with a 1:05.538s.

Track limits were again proving troublesome, with Sainz and Perez both losing laps for running wide at Turn 1 and Turn 9 respectively.

While it mattered little for Sainz, who sat fifth at the time, Perez was on the bubble and in need of a stronger second effort to ensure his progression into Qualifying 3.

With three minutes remaining, Norris completed a timed lap, rising from 15th to 13th with a 1:06.625s – which was subsequently deleted for track limits at Turn 7.

Leclerc had surpassed Hamilton’s earlier effort, setting a 1:05.287s to take provisional pole.

The Mercedes driver had a lap late on deleted, though it was slower on his previous effort and he remained second.

That became third when Verstappen went second fastest with a 1:05.374s while Perez progressed to Qualifying 3 with the sixth best time.

Not moving on were Pierre Gasly, Alex Albon, Bottas (who will start last), Yuki Tsunoda, and Norris who were eliminated from the session.

As Qualifying 3 began, officials noted Perez would be investigated post-session for a potential track limits violation at Turn 8 in the final moments of the previous segment.

Provisional pole went to Verstappen after the initial round of flying laps, a 1:05.092s from the Dutchman 0.091s better than Leclerc.

Hamilton had aborted his initial effort, only to lose control on his next attempt at Turn 7, tagging the barrier to draw the red flag shown.

The Mercedes began sliding through the left-hander, the Brit steering into it which then escorted the F1 W13 off the road where it skidded sideways into the barrier.

With the car damaged, Hamilton was eliminated from the session with a best of 1:13.151s that left him eighth at the time, though neither Alonso nor Schumacher were yet to set a time.

Qualifying resumed with five minutes remaining, Russell and Alonso heading out as the green light was shown at pit exit.

The remaining seven runners waited another two minutes, doing so shortly before Russell drew a second red flag.

He lost control at the final corner, skating backwards into the tyre barrier to damage the right-rear wheel.

Proceedings resumed with just over two minutes remaining, led out of the pit land by the two Haas drivers.

All eight remaining runners headed out, Verstappen and Perez at the back of the queue, though all drivers made the line well before the chequered flag fell.

Leclerc went fastest with his final lap, a 1:05.013s to move into provisional pole position with Sainz slotting in second best.

However, Verstappen went faster to steal back top spot with a 1:04.984s, while Perez recorded the fourth best time.

Russell remained fifth, despite crashing out of the session, then came Ocon, Magnussen, Schumacher, Alonso, and Hamilton.

The result will see Verstappen officially recorded on pole position for the Austrian Grand Prix, even though he may not start Sunday’s race from first place.

He will, however, start first for the Sprint on Saturday, the outcome of which will set the grid for the race proper.

A final 60-minute practice session precedes those, with Free Practice 2 scheduled to begin at 20:30 AEST tonight prior to the Sprint at 00:30.

Results: Formula 1 Austrian Grand Prix, Qualifying

Pos Num Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 1 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1:05.852 1:05.374 1:04.984
2 16 Charles Leclerc Scuderia Ferrari 1:05.419 1:05.287 1:05.013
3 55 Carlos Sainz Scuderia Ferrari 1:05.660 1:05.576 1:05.066
4 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull Racing 1:06.143 1:05.805 1:05.404
5 63 George Russell Mercedes-AMG F1 Team 1:06.235 1:05.697 1:05.431
6 31 Esteban Ocon Alpine F1 Team 1:06.468 1:05.993 1:05.726
7 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas F1 Team 1:06.366 1:05.894 1:05.879
8 47 Mick Schumacher Haas F1 Team 1:06.405 1:06.151 1:06.011
9 14 Fernando Alonso Alpine F1 Team 1:06.016 1:06.082 1:06.103
10 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes-AMG F1 Team 1:06.079 1:05.475 1:13.151
11 10 Pierre Gasly Scuderia AlphaTauri 1:06.589 1:06.160
12 23 Alex Albon Williams Racing 1:06.516 1:06.230
13 77 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo F1 Team 1:06.442 1:06.319
14 22 Yuki Tsunoda Scuderia AlphaTauri 1:06.463 1:06.851
15 4 Lando Norris McLaren F1 Team 1:06.330 1:25.847
16 3 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren F1 Team 1:06.613
17 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin F1 Team 1:06.847
18 24 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo F1 Team 1:06.901
19 6 Nicholas Latifi Williams Racing 1:07.003
20 5 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin F1 Team 1:07.083

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