AUSTRIAN GP – Max Verstappen beats Sergio Perez by almost half a second to sprint pole

News & Analysis

Max Verstappen has beaten his teammate Sergio Perez to take pole for the sprint race at the Austrian Grand Prix. The Dutchman was almost half a second faster than the Mexican, as he continued to dominate and lead every session since taking the lead in the closing stages in Miami.

It was a much better session for the Mexican after being knocked out in Grand Prix qualifying in Q2. However, beating his teammate Verstappen still looked to be a difficult challenge as the two-time champion looked very comfortable with his Red Bull and will be looking for sprint victory later this afternoon.

The Dutchman, who holds a sixty-nine point lead over Perez at the top of the world championship as he seeks a third successive drivers’ title, finished almost half a second clear of his team-mate to underline his excellence in all conditions. Unlike in race qualifying, Perez kept it within track limits to give Red Bull a front row lock out

Verstappen benefitted from having saved up additional soft tyres throughout the weekend and never looked under threat during the final eight-minute period.

Lando Norris put McLarens upgrades to good use going third, the Red Bull Ring once again appearing to suit his driving style as well as the drying conditions. However he was eight tenths behind the Mexican, but that does show encouragement for the team following upgrades.

The session started in rainy conditions at the Red Bull Ring and sprint qualifying being declared wet meant the strict slick compound requirements for the compacted session were suspended and drivers could use whatever tyres they wanted throughout.

Verstappen said “It was good. Of course, the track was drying up so lap after lap you were improving and had to be on the track at the right time. I think we did well. The car was in a good window, good balance. I am very happy to be first. I don’t know why it’s a bit different today, The track is not fully dry.”

Nico Hulkenberg was fourth for Haas, the German going half a hundredth faster than the two Ferraris, with Carlos Sainz out-qualifying teammate Charles Leclerc by just over a tenth. He has used new softs on his final run in SQ3 to move up to fifth while Leclerc didn’t have fresh tyres for a second run.

Ferrari’s session in SQ1 was mixed Sainz spent much of the session in the pits because of a brake-by-wire problem on the rear of his car that left him with only the mechanical system working and so the rear brakes heated up and began smoking. But the Spaniard had just got a lap in at the end of the session.

However, Hulkenberg and Leclerc both face stewards’ investigations. Hulkenberg’s is for an unsafe release from the pits, when he ran over his own tyre, launching the car into the air. Leclerc later was given a three place grid penalty for impeding Oscar Piastri in SQ1.

The stewards concluded that while Leclerc had not had as clear communication to warn him about Piastri approaching him, he still could have done a better job in getting out of the way. That dropped the Ferrari from sixth to ninth for the sprint.

It was a nightmare session for Mercedes Lewis Hamilton the biggest casualty of SQ1 after failing to improve within track limits, on his final run and out in eighteenth less than a hundredth ahead of former teammate Valtteri Bottas.

Hamilton had found himself trying to find a gap behind Kevin Magnussen, however, his final lap while he improved was s deleted for exceeding track limits. Waiting in turn behind Magnussen, Hamilton was at Red Bull (corner) as Verstappen came up behind him trying to finish a lap.

In apparent retaliation, Verstappen then overtook Hamilton down the pit straight and seemed to impede him into Lauda at the start of Hamilton’s final flying lap, which was not fast enough to progress out of the first session.

On his final attempt in SQ1, the seven-time champion had his lap ruined in its opening stages, as he got caught up with Verstappen, who was finishing a flying lap.

Following the session the seven-time champion sounded a bit dejected but insisted he wasn’t bothered. he said, “Timings not right. But it is the Sprint race, doesn’t really matter anyway. Just have some fun from the back and it is what it is. We will focus on our job today. I’ll just have a bit of fun at the back.”

While teammate George Russell made it through to SQ2, his session was also over as a he suffered a hydraulic failure at the end of Q1 and, despite Mercedes mechanics being spotted working on his car during the middle segment, he did not take to the track.

Fernando Alonso was nine hundredths faster than his Aston Martin teammate Lance Stroll to take seventh. Aston still looking to be in the mix but perhaps slipping back from where they were earlier in the season when they were regularly challenging Red Bull, but both drivers improved on their final run.

Esteban Ocon was ninth over half a second ahead of Magnussen. Alex Albon was fastest of those knocked out in SQ2, the British-Thai driver going two tenths faster than the second Alpine of Pierre Gasly. Yuki Tsunoda was two tenths ahead of his teammate Nyck de Vries, however the Japanese driver was another driver caught out by track limits.

Guanyu Zhou was fastest of those knocked out in SQ1, that was despite being caught out by hitting the kerb at Rindt, he was four hundredths faster than Oscar Piastri. Piastri is under investigation for impeding Leclerc at the same corner. Hamilton was the biggest casualty clashing with Verstappen on his final attempt.

Also knocked out was Valtteri Bottas who was nearly a tenth and a half ahead of Logan Sargeant.



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