Max Verstappen scored an important pole position from Formula 1 rival Charles Leclerc by snatching pole position in the final few moments of qualifying at the Red Bull Ring.
The defending champion and local favourite looked to have been beaten by a last-second Ferrari threat that peaked after two red flags in Q3 that were caused by Lewis Hamilton then George Russell crashing.
With the Red Bull driver dropping time during the first half of the lap on his final dash, Leclerc might have seized top position 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 64 seconds mark.
Effectively, qualifying had boiled down to the final two minutes, 30 seconds 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 one minute, 05.013 seconds effort.
Sainz was a little adrift with a one minute, 05.066 seconds, completed with three personal best sectors, that appeared to have confirmed 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 recorded an impressive one minute, 04.984 seconds which means he will start at the front of the pack in the sprint race.
Sainz will be joined on the second row of the grid by Sergio Perez as Russell’s pre-crash effort was suffice for fifth ahead of Esteban Ocon.
But Perez will be moved back several positions after race control found that the Red Bull driver took track limits.
Kevin Magnussen had the advantage on his Haas teammate Mick Schumacher to end a close-run intra-team fight in seventh, while Fernando Alonso was ninth.
Hamilton, meanwhile, was shuffled down to P10 as a legacy of his incident that occurred inside the first half of the final ten minutes part of qualifying.
In the first of the Mercedes shunts, Hamilton had brought out the red flags in Q3 with five minutes, 29 seconds to go after shunting into the barrier at Turn 7.
The seven-time world 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 sideways into the wall and breaking parts of his car.
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 one minute, 05.475 seconds 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 0.42 seconds adrift of Verstappen’s benchmark before flashing a green second sector.
Then not unlike his teammate, Russell lost the rear through final corner as it too snapped violently to flick Russell towards the outside tyre wall, eventually damaging his rear wing.
Russell remains under investigation for entering the track without permission at Turn 10 as he walked across the track under the red flag to return to the Mercedes garage.
He then progressed into the final part of qualifying at his last attempt, finishing Q2 in sixth, only to then be noted for running over the white lines at the left-right transition through the Turn 7-8 open chicane after the session had ended and positions 11-15 decided.
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 teammate 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 one minute, 06.160 seconds, Pierre Gasly had been the first driver to miss out on Q3.
He toured round 0.11 seconds slower than Schumacher to set the P11 ahead of the rapid upgraded Williams FW44 of Alex Albon and the Alfa Romeo of Valtteri Bottas.
Yuki Tsunoda ran P14, 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 honey badger missing the cut off by 0.024 seconds.
As teammate Norris ended the first 18-minute part of qualifying in eighth, despite running off road at Turn 3, Ricciardo managed only P16 to lose out to the AlphaTauri of 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 P17.
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 P19 ahead of four-time champion Sebastian Vettel.
The Aston Martin driver had initially lapped quicker than his teammate only to be sent to the bottom of the times when he exceeded track limits at Turn 10 to have his time deleted.
So a very close qualifying battle between the Ferraris and yet the local hero Max Verstappen rise to the challenge and scored an important pole position. The sprint race is going to be interesting and it is going to be a long race at the Red Bull Ring. Bring it on!
Austrian Grand Prix, qualifying results:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:04.984
2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:05.013
3 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:05.066
4 Sergio Perez Red Bull 1:05.404*
5 George Russell Mercedes 1:05.431
6 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:05.726
7 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:05.879
8 Mick Schumacher Haas 1:06.011
9 Fernando Alonso Alpine 1:06.103
10 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:13.151
11 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 1:06.160
12 Alex Albon Williams 1:06.230
13 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1:06.851
14 Lando Norris McLaren 1:25.847
15 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 1:06.613
16 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:06.847
17 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 1:06.901
18 Nicholas Latifi Williams 1:07.003
19 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 1:07.083
20 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 1:06.319
*Lap time deleted due to track limited. Perez will start the sprint race in P13.