Max Verstappen achieved his fourth consecutive pole position at the Red Bull Ring, despite track limits at play. The Red Bull driver just managed to edge out Charles Leclerc to take P1 for the Austrian Grand Prix by just 0.048 seconds, with Sergio Perez missing Q3 for a fourth successive race.
Under cloudy skies and in stronger winds compared to the earlier practice session, the drivers found themselves incurring multiple track limits penalties, particularly in Q2.
Verstappen led the way in all three segments and after the first runs in Q3, where Leclerc trailed by 0.206 seconds behind the world champion for Ferrari.
On the second and final Q3 goes, Verstappen led the pack around and recorded the purple sectors in the first and third sectors, which improved the quickest time to a one minute, 04.391 seconds.
Behind, Leclerc improved to edge out teammate Carlos Sainz, setting the fastest time in the middle sector as he pushed Verstappen hard for pole.
Leclerc threw caution to the wind in the final turns on his last Q3 lap, going very close to the track limits through the double right-hander and as he did so his left rear stepped out a touch and as he shot to the line he found himself beaten and Verstappen’s Grand Prix pole secured by less than half a tenth.
Lando Norris trailed Sainz in the only updated McLaren, with Lewis Hamilton fifth in the lead Mercedes.
Then came Lance Stroll, who headed team-mate Fernando Alonso in qualifying for only the second time this season despite having to recover from losing his opening Q3 run to a track limits violation at the final corner.
Nico Hulkenberg took eighth for Haas ahead of Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon, who lost his best time in Q3 – and off-set second lap run before the other nine drivers put their final laps in – but in any case, it would not have been enough to get him any higher on the grid.
In Q2, the track limits issue really began to heat up as both Red Bull drivers lost their opening times for running too wide out of the final corner.
While Verstappen was able to go through with his second effort, Perez lost his second attempt, this time for being too wide on the approach to the last corner, running wide out of the penultimate corner.
He then jumped to second ahead of the flurry of final times in the middle segment but again was dropped back for running too wide out of Turn 10.
That left him without a representative lap time and out in P15, where he was joined in being knocked out by George Russell, Esteban Ocon, Oscar Piastri and Valtteri Bottas.
Russell’s personal best came ahead of the final fliers but he was shuffled back, while Ocon appeared to have secured progression before he too lost his time for going too wide in the final corner on his last lap.
Bottas also lost a lap that would have had him ahead of Piastri for the same infraction as Perez and Ocon.
Q1 was interrupted with one-third of the 18 minutes completed when Bottas lost the rear of his car following the slow-moving Perez through the first corner.
When Bottas’s left rear corner touched the big yellow sausage kerb on the exit of the sharply uphill right-hander, the Alfa Romeo speared right and spun off backwards, coming to rest with its right-front wheel remaining on the track and the rest on the grass on the inside.
As Bottas initially struggled to find neutral and then get going again, the session was red-flagged for six minutes, during which time he was able to turn around and head back to the pits.
When the action resumed in the opening segment, Bottas’s last-gasp improvement knocked out Yuki Tsunoda in P16.
Zhou Guanyu then set a personal best in the other Alfa Romeo but it was not enough to save him from being eliminated in P17, with the same true for Williams driver Logan Sargeant, who was left feeling angry after leaving too much margin to the heavily-policed final corner on his last lap.
Kevin Magnussen was knocked out in P19 complaining about a downshifts problem at Turn 3, with Nyck de Vries finishing last in the other AlphaTauri – another driver to set a personal best with their final Q1 lap.
So congratulations to Max Verstappen in scoring his fourth pole in a row but as this is a sprint weekend, there’s another opportunity for the other drivers to set a fast lap in sprint qualifying.
Austrian Grand Prix, grid positions:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:04.391
2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:04.439
3 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:04.581
4 Lando Norris McLaren 1:04.658
5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:04.819
6 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:04.893
7 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 1:04.911
8 Nico Hulkenberg Haas 1:05.090
9 Pierre Gasly Alpine 1:05.170
10 Alex Albon Williams 1:05.823
11 George Russell Mercedes 1:05.428
12 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:05.453
13 Oscar Piastri McLaren 1:05.605
14 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 1:05.680
15 Sergio Perez Red Bull 2:06.688
16 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1:05.784
17 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 1:05.818
18 Logan Sargeant Williams 1:05.948
19 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:05.971
20 Nyck de Vries AlphaTauri 1:05.974