Formula 1 championship leader Max Verstappen dominated Saturday sprint qualifying at the Austrian Grand Prix, as Mercedes endured a nightmare session.
Only one of the two Mercedes cars even made the second segment of qualifying, and it didn’t even get to set a representative time, George Russell having radioed in a hydraulic failure at the end of SQ1 that, requiring a steering rack change, ultimately consigned him to 15th.
But team-mate Lewis Hamilton ended up three places lower still, having had his best laptime in SQ1 deleted for a track limits infringement and with his next-best time a full second worse.
The preceding Formula 3 race had been wet, and the track was still sketchy enough at the start of sprint qualifying for three drivers to go out on intermediates – although all three immediately abandoned that plan.
However, with the track having been declared wet for qualifying, it meant there was no requirement for drivers to use specific tyre compounds in each of the session – meaning used softs were used extensively throughout.
Verstappen, however, had a fresh set available for both of his runs in the final segment – and he proved well out of reach, his 1m04.440s just half a tenth off his pole time from the day prior, coming despite a Turn 3 moment that his race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase said cost him a tenth and a half.
Team-mate Sergio Perez put his Friday disappointment behind to elevate himself to the front row at the chequered flag, albeit half a second off Verstappen, followed by McLaren’s Lando Norris, a standout again in the upgraded MCL60.
Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg was a remarkable fourth, having used fresh mediums on both of his SQ3 runs and showing they were every bit a match for worn softs.
But Hulkenberg is under investigation for an alleged unsafe release, his Haas having bounced over a just-removed tyre while he was heading out of his pit box in SQ2.
Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc locked out the third row for Ferrari. Sainz only narrowly avoided an SQ1 exit with a last-gasp effort, after having reported a brake-by-wire issue earlier in the segment before leaping to first with his single flying lap, while Leclerc is under investigation for potentially having impeded Oscar Piastri in that same segment.
Fernando Alonso on used softs was a tenth up on team-mate Lance Stroll on fresh mediums, making for a provisional all-Aston Martin row four.
Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and Haas driver Kevin Magnussen completed the top 10.
Alex Albon was the quickest of those eliminated in SQ2 in 11th, 0.061s away from advancing as his final lap never came together.
Alpine’s Pierre Gasly unleashed several expletives on team radio after ending up 12th, followed by the AlphaTauri duo of Yuki Tsunoda – himself raging at track limits – and Nyck de Vries.
Zhou Guanyu outpaced Alfa Romeo team-mate Valtteri Bottas by a quarter of a second in the first segment, and was just 0.001s away from forcing his way into SQ2 at the expense of Leclerc. He is set to join Russell on the eighth row.
Piastri, who was among three drivers (along with the Williams duo) to try inters in the opening minutes of SQ1, followed in 17th place in the non-upgraded McLaren, with Hamilton, Bottas and Williams driver Logan Sargeant completing the order.
Rookie Sargeant had had his best time deleted, but that only dropped him two places.
|Nyck de Vries