Imperious Verstappen takes pole for Austrian Grand Prix

Max Verstappen followed up a win in the sprint to take pole position for Sunday's Austrian Grand Prix (ERWIN SCHERIAU)
Max Verstappen followed up a win in the sprint to take pole position for Sunday's Austrian Grand Prix (ERWIN SCHERIAU)

Max Verstappen continued his imperious form in Red Bull’s homeland on Saturday when, after winning the sprint race, he claimed a convincing pole position for Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix.

The series leader and three-time world champion clocked a best lap in 1 minute 4.314 seconds to outpace nearest rival Lando Norris of McLaren by 0.404sec for his fourth Austrian pole at the Red Bull Ring.

It also ended a run of three races where he was beaten in qualifying in Monaco, Canada and Spain and brought him his 40th career pole position.

"That went really well,” said Verstappen.

“We tried to adjust things a bit after this morning and it went well. It was warmer than yesterday and a bit tricky but the car felt good and I could attack the corners much more. It felt on point and really good out there.

“It’s been a while since we’ve been on pole and we have worked hard to be more competitive.’

Norris said: “I think that was the best we could do today and Max was in a league of his own – but I am happy and I’ll take that.”

George Russell took third for Mercedes ahead of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton in the second Mercedes, Charles Leclerc in his Ferrari and Oscar Piastri in the second McLaren.

Piastri’s best flying lap was deleted for exceeding track limits in the closing minutes when he briefly went third.

Sergio Perez was eighth in the second Red Bull, continuing his struggles, ahead of Haas’s Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Ocon of Alpine.

- Turning up the heat -

Verstappen led the way out of the pit lane for the opening of Q1 with the Styrian Alps simmering in the heat with a track temperature of 47 degrees and the air at 32.

The conditions, however, did nothing to quell the enthusiasm of the Dutch champion's ‘orange army’, massed in the grandstands.

With everyone on softs, Verstappen set the pace in 1min 6.054sec on his first lap – he took pole in 1min 04.686sec last year – before the Ferraris and McLarens made their opening forays, Leclerc emerging as the early pace-setter in 1min 05.901sec.

Mercedes left their first runs until later, but Russell temporarily took over top spot with Hamilton slotted in seventh.

Verstappen and Sainz both responded as the times tumbled. Only half a second separated the top nine drivers as Hamilton dropped to 16th and needed a new set of softs to avoid an early exit.

As he survived, Alex Albon of Williams, Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll, Valtteri Bottas of Sauber, Logan Sargeant of Williams and Zhou Guanyu in the second Sauber were eliminated.

The Q2 session began with Leclerc posting a best time to go top with a lead of just 0.050sec ahead of Ocon only for Verstappen, in imperious mood, sweeping to the top in 1min 04.577sec.

He took a fresh set of softs for a final run in 1min 04.469sec, half a second clear of the pack led by Sainz, Russell and Hamilton with two-time champion Fernando Alonso of Aston Martin among those to drop out.

Norris and then Hulkenberg took command in Q3 before Verstappen flexed his muscles, clocking 1min 04.314sec to consolidate his position and take pole.