Charles Leclerc achieved his second Formula 1 pole position at the Red Bull Ring for Ferrari, while teammate Sebastian Vettel was hit by a mechanical issue in Q3.
The rising Ferrari star was the class of the field throughout the Austrian Grand Prix qualifying, setting two laps significant enough for pole position in Q3.
Leclerc’s took provisional pole with a time of one minute, 03.208 seconds on his first run, then set the fastest times of all in the second and third sectors to improve to a one minute, 03.003 seconds.
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, who complained of not being strong enough on the straights, moved from fourth to second on his final lap – ending up 0.259 seconds slower.
Hamilton will also be investigated after the session for potentially impeding Kimi Raikkonen at Turn 3 during Q1.
If the race stewards do penalised the championship leader, then this will be a major set back for Hamilton.
Max Verstappen was third fastest, 0.436 seconds down, ahead of Valtteri Bottas.
Both Mercedes drivers and Verstappen will start the race on medium-compound Pirellis having used those tyres to set their Q2 times, with the rest of the top ten using softs.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner explained the decision to use mediums, which he believes will be the best race strategy for his team.
“That soft won’t have the range and that puts a lot of stress on that last [stint] tyre,” said Horner.
“Ferrari generate their lap time differently, they go slower round the corners and faster down the straights, so they might feel confident that they can make that work because they don’t put as much heat into the tyres in the corners.”
Kevin Magnussen, who made Q3 despite locking up and running into the gravel at Turn 4 on his final Q2 lap, was fifth quickest – three hundredths faster than the McLaren of Lando Norris.
But the Haas driver has a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change, so will lose his third-row starting slot.
Alfa Romeo duo Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi were seventh and eighth, while Pierre Gasly was only ninth for Red Bull after failing to improve on his second Q3 run.
Vettel was unable to take to the track in Q3 thanks to what Ferrari called a problem with the air pressure line to the engine, meaning he ended up P10.
Romain Grosjean was P11 after lapping 0.024 seconds slower than Haas teammate Magnussen in Q2.
Grosjean set two lap times separated by just one thousandth of a second on his second run, but it wasn’t enough to overhaul Magnussen.
Renault driver Nico Hulkenberg failed to improve on his second run in Q2 and ended up P11 thanks to being in the queue of cars slower by Magnussen’s Turn 4 off.
Hulkenberg also has a five-place grid penalty.
Toro Rosso driver Alex Albon was P13, but has to serve a back-of-the-grid penalty thanks to taking the ‘Spec 3’ Honda power unit and latest turbo charger.
Daniel Ricciardo only had one run in Q2 and ended up P14, ahead of the McLaren of Carlos Sainz.
Sainz did not set a serious time in Q2 as he also has a back-of-the-grid penalty thanks to engine component changes caused by switching to the ‘spec B’ Renault power unit.
Sergio Perez was the fastest of those eliminated in Q1 after jumping Racing Point teammate Lance Stroll at the end of Q1.
Perez lapped 0.043 seconds faster than Stroll, with the Racing Point driver briefly lifting himself out of the drop zone in the final minutes of Q1 before being shuffled back as others improved.
Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat was P18, half-a-second slower than Stroll, after traffic ruined what should have been his best lap.
Kvyat turned into Turn 9 and encountered George Russell – who was slow ahead of starting a lap and behind a queue of cars that included Albon – forcing him to run very wide as he passed.
The stewards will investigate the incident after the session, with Kvyat saying “I almost killed someone” over the radio after having to avoid the queue of cars.
George Russell was fastest of the two Williams drivers, three tenths ahead of teammate Robert Kubica, although both will move off the back row thanks to penalties for Albon and Sainz.
So grid penalties can affect the line up of the Austrian Grand Prix but for the quickest driver Charles Leclerc, this was an impressive result for the Scuderia Ferrari. Hopefully Leclerc can achieve that maiden victory come race day.
Austrian Grand Prix, qualifying positions:
1 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1m03.003s
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m03.262s
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1m03.439s
4 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m03.537s
5 Lando Norris McLaren-Renault 1m04.099s
6 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1m04.166s
7 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1m04.179s
8 Pierre Gasly Red Bull-Honda 1m04.199s
9 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari –
10 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1m04.072s
11 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 1m04.490s
12 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 1m04.790s
13 Sergio Perez Racing Point-Mercedes 1m04.789s
14 Lance Stroll Racing Point-Mercedes 1m04.832s
15 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Honda 1m05.324s
16 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 1m05.904s
17 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1m04.516s
18 Robert Kubica Williams-Mercedes 1m06.206s
19 Alexander Albon Toro Rosso/Honda 1m04.665s
20 Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren-Renault 1m13.601s