Max Verstappen will start the Austrian Grand Prix sprint race from pole after pipping Charles Leclerc to top spot by just 0.029s. British Grand Prix winner Carlos Sainz qualified third and just 0.082s off the pace.
Verstappen left his best until last. Not only was the Red Bull driver one of the last across the line, but his first two sectors weren’t improvements on his previous laps, with the fine difference all coming at the final split.
“At the end it was a very tight qualifying,” he said. “It’s a very challenging track as well to get everything right.
“I think we have a great car. Normally qualifying is not out strangest point. I’m very happy with pole, but I also know that tomorrow and Sunday you get the points.”
It was a disjointed pole shootout, featuring two red flags, both for crashed-out Mercedes drivers.
Lewis Hamilton was the first after the rear of his car stepped out traveling through Turn 7. As he attempted to correct the slide he ended up skating through the gravel and making heavy right-side contact with the wall.
Hamilton's qualifying ends in the barriers 💥😖#AustrianGP #F1 pic.twitter.com/vue7GDQYJm
— Formula 1 (@F1) July 8, 2022
The session had barely resumed when George Russell forced another suspension. This time the Mercedes “snapped from nowhere” and swapped ends entering the last corner, making relatively light rear-first contact with the barrier that nonetheless damaged the rear wing and right-rear corner of the car.
Both drivers appeared to have the pace to contend for the front row in a boost to the team in analysis of its Silverstone upgrade, but while Russell qualified fifth, Hamilton sunk to 10th by the end of the session. Russell is also under post-session investigation for walking across the track to return to pit lane without the permission of the marshals.
Instead Ferrari’s Leclerc was able to slip onto the front row of the grid by less than half a tenth.
“I think we are all three very close,” he said. “Max was just a little bit quicker, so congrats to him, and hopefully we’ll have an exciting race tomorrow.”
Sainz backed him up in second and around 0.05s behind his teammate.
“I’m going to take P3 and being close to these guys,” he said of the margin. “The good think is we put in a good lap there at the end of Q3.
Sergio Perez was always a step behind Verstappen in practice and qualifying, leaving him fourth and 0.42s off the pace ahead of the crashed-out Russell.
Esteban Ocon was the lead Alpine, taking sixth, ahead of Haas teammates Kevin Magnussen, following on from their double Q3 appearance in Canada two rounds ago.
Fernando Alonso managed ninth ahead of only the non-competing Hamilton in 10th.
Pierre Gasly was knocked out a disheartened 11th ahead of Williams driver Alex Albon. Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas will start the sprint 13th — he won’t serve his back-of-grid engine penalty until Sunday — with Yuki Tsunoda in 14th.
McLaren endured a shocking day, with Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo knocked out 15th and 16th respectively. Both cars suffered technical problems in FP1 and set the fewest laps of any other machines, and subsequently neither driver had the confidence to progress through qualifying.
Ricciardo was knocked out in Q1 after losing time late on his final lap, and though Norris slipped into Q2, he failed to set a representative time in the segment, reporting he was “scared to hit the brakes.”
Lance Stroll was 17th for Aston Martin ahead of Zhou Guanyu and Nicholas Latifi, while Sebastian Vettel had a lap time deleted late for exceeding track limits and dropped to 10th in the order.