World champion Max Verstappen of Red Bull snatched a sixth pole position of the season at his team’s home track for the Austrian Grand Prix on Friday. Charles Leclerc will join the world championship leader on the front row ahead of his Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz who qualified third-quickest and starts alongside Lando Norris of McLaren on the second row.
“Very happy being on pole,” said Verstappen. “We know that this is a different weekend with the whole format, but very happy with today. At least the car is quick and that’s the most important.”
For the second time this year after Baku, a sprint race will take place on Saturday before the Grand Prix on Sunday. Friday’s qualifying sets the starting grid for Sunday, while Saturday’s shootout session sets the grid for the sprint in the afternoon.
There will be six sprint races in total this season. “It was very difficult because of all the track limits,” continued the Dutch driver.
“With these speeds and high-speed corners it is very difficult to judge the track limits. A lot of people were being caught out, including me. It takes out the joy a little bit but still a very good lap.”
Red Bull’s Sergio Perez failed to make the top 10 for a fourth straight race as he struggled with track limits. Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes qualified in fifth followed by the Aston Martins of Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso.
Nico Hulkenberg (Haas), Pierre Gasly (Alpine) and Alex Albon (Williams) complete the top 10 on the grid. “It feels good to finally have a clean qualifying again and to be back on the front row,” said Leclerc, who was just 0.048sec behind Verstappen.
“The feeling has been a bit better in the last few races. It was all about building up to the last lap and I managed to put everything in. Very close to the Red Bulls. I don’t think we expected to be that close.”
Dutchman Verstappen is chasing a seventh victory this season. The 25-year-old leads the title race by 69 points ahead of Mexican Perez, the only other driver to have won this season in Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan.
Winner of the last four races, Verstappen is favourite on his team’s home Red Bull circuit. He has already won four times there — three Austrian GPs and one Styrian GP. To achieve a one-two at home, Red Bull will have more difficulty.
Perez struggled with the track limits and had his time cancelled, and will start in 15th. Like Perez, Frenchman Esteban Ocon (Alpine), Australian Oscar Piastri (McLaren) and Finn Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo) saw their times cancelled in the second qualifying session.
They will start 12th, 13th and 14th respectively. George Russell qualified in 11th, far behind his Mercedes teammate Hamilton.
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