Austrian GP qualifying: Verstappen takes sprint pole, Mercedes spin into disaster
Max Verstappen took pole for Saturday's sprint, followed closely by Leclerc and Sainz. Both Mercedes spun into the barriers in Q3, leaving Alpine and Haas to lead the midfield tomorrow.
Not much was in it between the top 3 in qualifying, as Verstappen stole pole from Leclerc in the dying moments of Q3 by a mere 0.029s. The Dutch driver will start tomorrow's sprint race in pole position as Red Bull look to score big in their home race, Sergio Pérez 0.4s behind in P4.
Update: Sergio Pérez’ Q3 times have been deleted. The Mexican will now start P13, as that’s what his best legal qualifying lap time gives him. Everyone above 13th moves up a place in the starting order tomorrow.
Track limits violations were the recurring theme in qualifying, with many drivers losing their lap times in Turn 10. A fast downhill right-hander, just a bit of understeer can force you wide of the white line. Turn 7 claimed a few lap times of its own, Lando Norris one of the notable drivers to lose their lap there.
Mercedes were shining in Q1 and Q2. Both cars were firmly in the mix with Red Bull and Ferrari, Hamilton even snatching provisional pole at one point. However, Q3 was disastrous(ly expensive). Hamilton shocked the world by ending up in the barriers in turn 7. The last time he crashed this badly was FP3 in Spa 2019. Russell quickly followed in his footsteps, losing the car into turn 10 and smashing into the barriers rear-first. Luckily for him, he was able to keep P5 after setting a lap earlier in the session. Hamilton, on the other hand, will have to start P10.
Alpine and Haas were left to fight for the lead of the midfield. Ocon set a rapid time to qualify sixth, leaving a decent gap to Magnussen and Schumacher. Alonso followed all three in P9, setting up tomorrow’s sprint with great battles up and down the order. Haas are looking to get back into the midfield fight after a horrible run of reliability and mistakes that has left them down the order in the championship. Things look firmly on the up now that both drivers have reached Q3 two weekends in a row.
McLaren made a step backwards this weekend, qualifying a lowly 15th and 16th. Norris reported problems with the brakes on the radio, while Ricciardo simply didn’t have the pace to progress into Q2. After a session reminiscent of Bahrain, the team back in Woking will be wondering what’s going on. For Lando, today’s result was unusual. If the team can sort out his braking issues, he can get back in the fight this weekend. However, questions will have to be asked about Ricciardo’s future as he continues to underperform relative to his teammate.
Aston Martin underperformed heavily yet again. Vettel finished Q1 in last place and Stroll’s best effort was only good enough for 17th. If you told Racing Point fans they’d end up this low 2 years later, they would have laughed in your face. It seems that in Formula 1, you can’t throw money at all of your problems and expect them to solve themselves. AM seem to be finding this out the hard way and it looks like this won’t be the last time they start from the last row.
Alex Albon headlined for Williams, qualifying 12th while Latifi continues to lag behind. The Canadian wasn’t able to follow up on his incredible Q3 entry last weekend, instead qualifying seven places behind his teammate in 19th. Williams have a decent car in qualifying, but their pace seems to disappear come race day. Albon is proving his speed, scoring all 3 of Williams’ points so far this season and outqualifying his teammate regularly. However, it’s very unlikely with his machinery that he’ll progress further up the grid tomorrow.
Alfa Romeo were relatively quiet today. Bottas bagged a decent 12th, while Zhou could only manage 18th. The latter cited tyre issues as the culprit for his early exit, later explaining in an interview he had trouble warming them up. Bottas is set up to battle the AlphaTauri pairing of Gasly and Tsunoda tomorrow, who qualified 11th and 14th, respectively.
We have another chapter in a thrilling title fight and battles up and down the midfield in store this weekend, so there's no doubt tomorrow's sprint race is bound to throw a few surprises for Sunday's main race.