Verstappen charges to P1 over Perez and Norris during Sprint Shootout in Austria
Max Verstappen secured pole position for the Sprint Shootout at the Austrian Grand Prix with a stunning display at the end of a damp-dry session, heading Red Bull team mate Sergio Perez and McLaren’s Lando Norris.
Verstappen delivered two lap times quick enough for P1 in the SQ3 phase, which did not include Lewis Hamilton after a shock SQ1 exit, the Dutchman initially clocking a 1m 04.613s before getting down to a 1m 04.440s, with Perez – recovering from his Friday woes – ending up almost half a second adrift.
Norris and Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg (despite being one of only two drivers to run mediums, not softs, for his final lap) were also stars of qualifying as they landed spots on the second row of the grid for the Sprint race that follows later today, getting the better of Ferrari pair Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc.
Aston Martin also ran line astern in seventh and eighth positions, Fernando Alonso just ahead of Lance Stroll (who also opted for mediums), with Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and the other Haas of Kevin Magnussen rounding out the top 10 places.
FORMULA 1 ROLEX GROSSER PREIS VON ÖSTERREICH 2023
Sprint Shootout results
|1 Max Verstappen VER Red Bull Racing
|2 Sergio Perez PER Red Bull Racing
|3 Lando Norris NOR McLaren
|4 Nico Hulkenberg HUL Haas F1 Team
|5 Carlos Sainz SAI Ferrari
Alex Albon narrowly missed out on another top-10 grid spot as he dropped out of SQ2 in 11th, followed by the other Alpine of Pierre Gasly, and the AlphaTauris of Yuki Tsunoda – who lamented traffic during his final run – and Nyck de Vries.
Mercedes driver George Russell avoided the same SQ1 fate as team mate Hamilton, but he reported a hydraulic problem on his way back to the pits and was unable to make it back out on track as he finished 15th and last in the second phase.
Zhou Guanyu went for a spin in the early stages of qualifying and could not avoid falling at the first hurdle in 16th, with McLaren rookie Oscar Piastri – not running the updates on team mate Norris’ car – taking 17th after hitting traffic in the final sector.
Hamilton will start the Sprint back in 18th position after his aforementioned dramas, leaving him with a massive task to take any points away from Saturday’s action, while the other Alfa Romeo of Valtteri Bottas and Williams of Logan Sargeant completed the order.
AS IT HAPPENED
SQ1 – Drama as Hamilton falls at the first qualifying hurdle
After a dry first day of running in Spielberg, which yielded a thrilling qualifying battle between Verstappen and Leclerc, the heavens opened overnight and soaked the circuit for the standalone day of Sprint action – the new-for-2023 Shootout setting the grid for the 100-kilometre dash.
Despite a break in the weather, the track was still damp for the start of the session, meaning that rather than mandated medium tyres for SQ1 and SQ2, and soft tyres for SQ3, drivers were free to pick the rubber they wanted as qualifying developed and the conditions changed.
While Williams pair Albon and Sargeant and McLaren’s Piastri opted for some exploratory laps on intermediates, the rest of the field felt there was enough of a dry line to head straight onto slicks – albeit Sainz coming back to the pits with a brake-by-wire failure.
Verstappen was one of only two drivers (along with Magnussen) to go for mediums rather than softs, but his initial benchmark was deleted for exceeding track limits, with the same happening to Zhou after he recovered from a spin at the penultimate corner.
With five minutes left on the clock, it was Norris who led the way on a 1m 07.755s, ahead of Alonso, Tsunoda, Piastri and Russell, while at the other end of the timesheets, Gasly, Bottas, Zhou, Sargeant and the sidelined Sainz were all in the drop zone.
Times continued to come thick and fast as the clock ticked down, with Perez lowering the P1 marker to 1m 07.085s on softs and team mate Verstappen slotting a tenth behind on mediums, while Piastri reported traffic in the form of Leclerc at the apex of Turn 9 – an incident that will be investigated after the session.
A dramatic final couple of minutes would see it all change again, a period in which both Ferrari drivers were under pressure to make it out of SQ1. Sainz delivered a brilliant, sole lap to jump to the top of the times on a 1m 06.187s, hitting the ground running in his repaired Ferrari, while Leclerc squeezed through in 15th.
However, the first phase would still claim a big name as seven-time world champion Hamilton lamented the timing of his final run en route to a shock exit in 18th. And, while team mate Russell progressed on the other side of the Mercedes garage, he reported troubles of his own amid an apparent hydraulic issue.
Verstappen ended up as Sainz’s nearest challenger in second, followed by the high-flying Hulkenberg, Aston Martin pair Stroll and Alonso, Magnussen, Russell and De Vries, with Norris and Ocon seeing out the top 10 positions.
Perez fell all the way back to 14th as the final times came in, but still made it through behind Gasly, Albon and Tsunoda, with Leclerc the final driver to progress by the finest of margins, denying spinner Zhou and Piastri. A particularly frustrated Hamilton, along with Bottas and Sargeant, also missed the cut.
Knocked out: Zhou, Piastri, Hamilton, Bottas, Sargeant
SQ2 – Another early qualifying bath for Mercedes
Verstappen and Sainz picked up where they left off during the first SQ2 laps, with the Red Bull this time leading the Ferrari, as Alonso and Stroll sandwiched Norris, Ocon held sixth from the Haas pair and Perez and Leclerc rounded out the top 10.
One driver without a time at this point was Russell, with Mercedes looking into his apparent hydraulic problem and subsequently confirming that he would be taking no further part – mechanics getting straight to work by replacing his steering rack.
Heading into the final couple of minutes, the timesheets were sent into a frenzy once more, with Verstappen ultimately grabbing top spot on a 1m 05.371s, putting him just over half a tenth clear of Sainz, as Ocon placed his Alpine ahead of Leclerc’s Ferrari.
Norris took fifth from Magnussen, Alonso and Perez, as Stroll and Hulkenberg – under investigation over an unsafe pit release – claimed the final spots in SQ3, narrowly denying Albon, who had a lap time deleted and could not repeat his top-10 showing from Friday.
Gasly, the AlphaTauris of Tsunoda and De Vries and Russell brought up the rear in SQ2, with replays after the chequered flag showing a pack of cars fighting for track position during the decisive runs – prompting an angry radio message from the eliminated Tsunoda.
Knocked out: Albon, Gasly, Tsunoda, De Vries, Russell
SQ3 – Verstappen storms to pole as Perez makes it a Red Bull 1-2
It was more of the same from Verstappen when SQ3 began, as he pumped in a 1m 04.613s to top the early times from Norris, Perez, Sainz and Alonso – the reigning double world champion benefitting from an extra set of softs that he saved on Friday.
For the second runs, Verstappen found another level to shave almost two-tenths off his benchmark and move down to a 1m 04.440s, with team mate Perez getting closest to him but finishing the best part of half a second slower.
Norris and Hulkenberg – the latter running the harder, medium tyres – both excelled to bag P3 and P4 respectively, meaning they will share the second row directly behind the Red Bulls for the Sprint race on Saturday afternoon.
The Ferraris of Sainz and Leclerc were fifth and sixth after overcoming their SQ1 scares, followed by the Aston Martins of Alonso and Stroll (the other man on mediums), while Ocon and Magnussen ended SQ3 as the slowest runners.
It now remains to be seen if there will be further action over the Leclerc/Piastri impeding incident and Hulkenberg’s unsafe release – with any potential penalties applying to the Sprint, rather than Sunday’s main Grand Prix.
“I think it was good,” pole-sitter Verstappen reflected. “Of course, the track was drying up, so lap after lap you were improving and you had to be on the track at the right time. Today we [didn’t] have a lot of laps in every segment of qualifying, but I think we did well, the car was in a good window, good balance, so very happy, of course, to be first.”
Drivers will now take a break before lining up on the grid for the 100-kilometre Sprint race at 1630 local time. Head to the RACE HUB to find out how you can catch the action.