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Qualifying report

F1 Austrian GP: Verstappen takes sprint race pole as Mercedes pair crash

Max Verstappen dramatically beat Charles Leclerc to snatch a late pole position for the Austrian Grand Prix sprint race as the genuine threat from Mercedes crumbled when both drivers crashed.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18

Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

The Red Bull driver and home favourite looked to have been eclipsed by a last-second Ferrari threat that peaked after two red flags in Q3 that were caused by Lewis Hamilton then George Russell shunting.

With defending champion Verstappen dropping time during the first half of the lap on his final dash, Leclerc might have seized top spot when he ran over the line to move into first place.

But Verstappen pulled it out of the bag by recovering the lost ground through the final sector to score what might have been an unlikely pole. He was the only driver to dip into the 1m04s.

Effectively, qualifying had boiled down to the final 2m30s following the Mercedes crashes.

Verstappen’s Q3 banker had him provisionally fastest as he left the Red Bull Ring pits behind both Ferraris.

Leclerc was first across the line to begin his final thrust for pole, only to drop a tenth in the first sector to Verstappen.

But he recovered that with a fastest overall final sector, while Verstappen was seemingly off the pace.

Leclerc therefore leapt to the top of the leaderboard on a 1m05.013s effort.

Sainz was a little adrift with a 1m05.066s, completed with three personal best sectors, that appeared to have cemented pole for Leclerc.

But then Verstappen pulled out a personal best final sector that was enough to offset the damage earlier in the lap and he bolted to a 1m04.984s to snare a remarkable sprint race pole by 0.029s.

Sainz will be joined on the second row of the grid by Russell, despite his crash, as Sergio Perez was demoted to 13th place for losing all his Q3 laps and best Q2 effort in which he exceeded track limits.

With Esteban Ocon moved up to fifth, Kevin Magnussen eventually had the legs on Haas stablemate Mick Schumacher to end a close-run intra-team squabble in sixth, while Fernando Alonso was eighth.

Hamilton, meanwhile, was shuffled down to ninth as a legacy of his incident that occurred inside the first half of the final 10-minute part of qualifying.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W13 crashes

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W13 crashes

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

In the first of the Mercedes shunts, Hamilton had brought out the red flags in Q3 with 5m29s to go after shunting into the barrier at Turn 7.

The seven-time champion, who had just oversteered out of Turn 6, was marginally wide of the apex, which caused the rear of his Mercedes W13 to snap out of control.

Hamilton was quick to correct it but as the car gripped, the steering lock applied projected him off the road and across the gravel.

He slammed sideway into the wall to break front- and rear-right corners.

The shunt was met by cheers from the Dutch-heavy crowd, Hamilton having been a credible front-row threat after leading the times for much of Q2 as he whittled his time down to a 1m05.475s before being shuffled to third behind Leclerc and Verstappen.

After the 11-minute interruption, Russell followed Alonso out of the pits to enjoy the clean air as he sought to improve on his fifth-fastest effort.

But despite the unhindered run, he ran slower than his personal best in the first sector to sit 0.42s adrift of Verstappen’s benchmark before flashing a green second sector.

Then not unlike his team-mate, Russell lost the rear through final corner as it too snapped violently to flick Russell towards the outside tyre wall, eventually crumpling his rear wing.

Russell was also given a warning for entering the track without permission at Turn 10 when he walked across the track under the red flag to return to the Mercedes garage.

George Russell, Mercedes W13

George Russell, Mercedes W13

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

Norris had been the major casualty of Q2, having ended the first part of qualifying in eighth, despite running off road at Turn 3, to massively put team-mate Ricciardo in the shade.

But the driver who caused the first of two red flags in FP1 after reporting smoke under his seat then ended up last in Q2, the Briton off the boil having been “scared to hit the brakes”.

The McLaren driver started the 15-minute dice by oversteering at Turn 3 before enduring masses of understeer at Turn 4 to clip the gravel and have his lap time deleted.

At his next attempt, he ran well deep at Turn 1 and had to abort the corner.

That left him last and without a time as he then messed up three of the seven defined corners, albeit the FIA recognises 10 turns.

He locked up at Turn 3 and Turn 4 before again tagging the kitty litter on the exit of Turn 6. Norris had one final attempt possible but pitted to end the session 15th.

Further ahead thanks to setting a 1m06.160s, Pierre Gasly had been the first driver to miss out on Q3.

He toured round 0.11s slower than Schumacher to set the 11th fastest time, pushed up to 10th by Perez's penalty, ahead of the rapid upgraded Williams FW44 of Alex Albon and the Alfa Romeo of Valtteri Bottas, who all jump up a place with Perez in 13th.

Kevin Magnussen, Haas VF-22

Kevin Magnussen, Haas VF-22

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

Yuki Tsunoda ran 14th, having ruined his final attempt by sliding off at Turn 1 - which was greeted by anger over team radio by the AlphaTauri racer.

Ricciardo’s difficult season and uninspiring form from Silverstone lingered on as he became the first person to miss out on Q2 - the Australian missing the cut off by 0.024s.

As team-mate Norris ended the first 18-minute part of qualifying in eighth, despite running off road at Turn 3, Ricciardo managed only 16th to lose out to the AlphaTauri of Pierre Gasly.

Meanwhile, Lance Stroll had appeared on the cusp of progressing into the second part of qualifying, running inside the top 15 for much of the opening gambit, only to slip to 17th.

Stroll was a multiple track limits offender, running wide at Turn 10 - the final corner - to have his current and next lap scrubbed off before he then pushed his luck at Turn 1.

He still kept ahead of the Alfa Romeo of Zhou Guanyu, while Nicholas Latifi took the old-spec Williams to 19th ahead of four-time champion Sebastian Vettel.

The Aston Martin driver had initially lapped quicker than his team-mate only to be sent to the bottom of the times when he exceeded track limits at Turn 10 to have his time deleted.

F1 Austrian GP: Full qualifying result 

Cla Driver Chassis Time Gap
1 Netherlands Max Verstappen Red Bull 1'04.984  
2 Monaco Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1'05.013 0.029
3 Spain Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1'05.066 0.082
4 United Kingdom George Russell Mercedes 1'05.431 0.447
5 France Esteban Ocon Alpine 1'05.726 0.742
6 Denmark Kevin Magnussen Haas 1'05.879 0.895
7 Germany Mick Schumacher Haas 1'06.011 1.027
8 Spain Fernando Alonso Alpine 1'06.103 1.119
9 United Kingdom Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1'13.151 8.167
10 France Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 1'06.160 1.176
11 Thailand Alex Albon Williams 1'06.230 1.246
12 Finland Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 1'06.319 1.335
13 Mexico Sergio Perez Red Bull 1'06.458 1.474
14 Japan Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1'06.851 1.867
15 United Kingdom Lando Norris McLaren 1'25.847 20.863
16 Australia Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 1'06.613 1.629
17 Canada Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1'06.847 1.863
18 China Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 1'06.901 1.917
19 Canada Nicholas Latifi Williams 1'07.003 2.019
20 Germany Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 1'07.083 2.099

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