Max Verstappen blitzed qualifying for the Styrian Grand Prix to put Red Bull Racing on pole at the Red Bull Ring. The Dutchman needed only his first flying lap in the top-10 shootout to set an unassailable time of 1m03.841s ahead of title rival Lewis Hamilton.
Hamilton attempted to improve with his second flyer, but congestion in the final sector of his warm-up lap left him ill prepared and the Briton could not improve.
Instead it was Valtteri Bottas in the second Mercedes who emerged as Verstappen’s challenger after a compromised first lap, but though the Finn set three personal best sectors, he was still 0.194s shy of the benchmark.
“It’s been a very good weekend,” Verstappen said. “Super happy to be on pole here at home — it’s nice to see a Red Bull car first here.
“I’m sure again tomorrow it will be very tight. Hopefully again it will be as interesting as in France.”
Despite qualifying second, Bottas will be penalized three places on the grid for spinning his car in pit lane during Friday afternoon practice, dropping him to fifth.
Winner at this track last year, the Finn will start on the medium tire — as will Verstappen and Hamilton — which should at least return him to podium contention in the race.
“Hopefully at least it can have a bit of an advantage,” he said. “It’s a shame about the penalty of course … I think it was a strong qualifying.”
Bottas’s penalty promotes teammate Hamilton to the front row, although the Briton is pessimistic about his Sunday prospects.
“Generally they’ve had a quarter of a second on us all weekend,” he said of Red Bull Racing. “I think we’ve managed to eke close in qualifying, but in race trim yesterday they were 0.25s ahead of us most of the time.
“I don’t think we have the raw pace to overtake them, that’s for sure, but we might be able to keep up. I did everything I could, and we go into the race tomorrow ready for a fight.”
Lando Norris was superb fourth quickest and will start third ahead of Red Bull Racing’s Sergio Perez, the pair promoted by Bottas’s penalty.
Pierre Gasly will start sixth, the AlphaTauri driver only 0.395s behind Verstappen in the leading sister team.
Charles Leclerc rebounded strongly from a mixed Friday to qualify seventh. Yuki Tsunoda was eighth quickest, but the Japanese rookie is under a penalty cloud for allegedly impeding Bottas.
The Mercedes driver was on his first flying lap of Q3 when he rapidly closed on Tsunoda, who was on a slow lap, in the braking zone at Turn 4. Tsunoda attempted to get out of the way by running deep into the corner, but Bottas was quick to radio his team with accusations of impeding, and the stewards will adjudicate later in the day (UPDATE: Tsunoda was assessed a three-place grid penalty).
Valtteri isn't very happy with Yuki
— Formula 1 (@F1) June 26, 2021
Fernando Alonso with ninth for Alpine ahead of Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll.
George Russell qualified 11th, the Williams driver an agonizing 0.008s short of the top 10.
Carlos Sainz will start 12th for Ferrari ahead of McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo, the Australian a substantial half-second slower than teammate Norris by the end of Q2.
Sebastian Vettel set the 12th-fastest time but had it deleted for exceeding track limits, dropping him to 14th just ahead of Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi.
Nicholas Latifi will start 16th after missing progression by just 0.033s, though the Canadian was only 0.686s slower than segment-topper Verstappen. Esteban Ocon was the segment’s big scalp in 17th, the Alpine driver 0.246s slower than teammate Alonso and 0.075s shy of Q2.
Kimi Raikkonen was knocked out in 18th ahead of Has drivers Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin.
— Formula 1 (@F1) June 26, 2021