Pole-sitter Verstappen thrilled to deliver ‘when it mattered’ but Perez left to rue more qualifying drama in Austria
Max Verstappen has admitted that Friday’s qualifying session for the Austrian Grand Prix was far from straightforward, despite the reigning double world champion walking away with his fourth pole position in a row.
Verstappen lost lap times in Q1 and Q2 after he was deemed to have exceeded track limits, but bounced back on both occasions to safely make it through to the pole shootout and charge his way to the front of the grid during Q3.
A final time of 1m 04.391s put Verstappen just under half a tenth clear of Ferrari rival Charles Leclerc, with the Red Bull driver admitting he had to balance risk versus reward en route to P1.
“I think it was not a very straightforward qualifying, just because of all the track limit problems for everyone, including myself,” said Verstappen. “But I think, at the end of the day, we put the lap in when it mattered.
“Q3 around here is always tricky, because you know that you can gain a bit of lap time by really pushing the limit on the white line everywhere, but then of course the risk of a cancelled lap time is there as well. It was just about finding all these margins, and I think just did that.
“You always know that on such a short lap that it’s going to be quite close with everyone, right? But we were ahead and that’s of course the most important.”
Looking ahead to Saturday’s Sprint Shootout and Sprint race, Verstappen continued: “This [pole for Sunday] of course was an important one to get. Tomorrow, again, a very different day, I don’t know what the weather will do as well, if it’s going to rain or not.
“But it’s still a very long weekend ahead of us where a lot of things can go right for you or wrong, so we’ll just take today and be happy with that, and that’s of course great for Sunday, but again tomorrow is a very different day.”
On the other side of the garage, Perez failed to reach Q3 for the fourth successive weekend after losing all three of his Q2 laps to track limits, meaning the Mexican – who will line up 15th – faces yet another damage limitation exercise on race day.
“We were a bit confused, but then once I got the feedback that it was on the way into [Turn] 10, it was all clear and I was on a good lap, but then all of a sudden on my final lap I found, I think, [Alex] Albon,” Perez explained.
“I just went straight, I could not stop. I think I lost a tenth or a bit more than that, just by going straight, but the stewards wouldn’t consider that I was blocked.”
He added: “There’s so many things I can control, and unfortunately this one you’re closing a good lap and then all of a sudden you are blocked and you have a penalty.”