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Formula 1

Leclerc hits trouble as Verstappen takes Austrian sprint pole

by Samarth Kanal
3 min read

Max Verstappen set the fastest time in sprint qualifying at the Red Bull Ring while Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc hit trouble in SQ3.

The championship leader, who has won nine of 14 sprints so far, beat McLaren’s Lando Norris to sprint pole by 0.093 seconds. The other McLaren of Oscar Piastri was third, yet 0.301 seconds off Verstappen's fastest time - a lap of 1m04.686s.

George Russell took fourth in sprint qualifying, just 0.067s off Piastri, while Carlos Sainz rounded out the top five for Ferrari.

His team-mate Charles Leclerc lost out when his engine appeared to cut out just as he was about to exit the pitlane, which cost him valuable time and led him to reach the chequered flag without setting a flying lap. Leclerc will therefore start the sprint in 10th place.

It took three minutes for any track action in SQ3 as the field waited until the last possible moment to vie for the fastest lap on soft tyres. Mercedes let the queue out of the pitlane while Sergio Perez, Pierre Gasly, and Charles Leclerc were at the back of that queue.

Hamilton finished sixth overall in sprint qualifying ahead of Perez, who struggled throughout and was 1.322 seconds behind his team-mate thanks partly to a compromised outlap. 

Esteban Ocon qualified eighth and his team-mate Pierre Gasly, who recently signed a new contract with Alpine, ninth. 

On the mandatory medium tyres, Verstappen topped SQ2 over Russell by more than a tenth of a second with his first and only effort of the qualifying segment. The Dutchman did however collect some gravel at Turn 6, the same corner that caught Hamilton out in SQ1.

Piastri was next on the board in SQ2, ahead of the Ferraris, then Hamilton in sixth. Norris and Perez appeared to struggle compared to their rivals as they finished seventh and eighth, respectively. The Mexican Red Bull driver was 0.426 seconds behind his team-mate in this part of sprint qualifying.

Both Alpines made it through to SQ3 with Ocon ninth and team-mate Gasly 10th in SQ2. 

Haas’s Kevin Magnussen therefore missed out on SQ3 in 11th place - by just 0.049s. 

Neither Aston Martin made it through to SQ3 either as Lance Stroll finished 12th and Fernando Alonso 13th. That left Yuki Tsunoda 14th and under-pressure Williams driver Logan Sargeant - who outqualified his team-mate Alex Albon - 15th and 0.827s off the pace in SQ2.

SQ1 took place on a dusty surface that offered less than ideal grip, which caught out a few drivers as they lapped on the medium tyre.

Hamilton had a scare in SQ1 as his first lap was struck off for track limits at Turn 6, and by emerging out of sequence his attempt at redemption was hampered by traffic. However, he went through to SQ2 in 13th ahead of Williams’s Sargeant and RB’s Tsunoda, who made it through to the second segment despite a spin at the final turn at the end of SQ1.

The other RB of Daniel Ricciardo was the first car to be eliminated ahead of Haas’s Nico Hulkenberg in 17th. 

Sauber’s Valtteri Bottas and Williams’s Albon - who was two-tenths off team-mate Sargeant in SQ1 - were next up on the leaderboard.

Zhou Guanyu, like Hamilton, had his first effort struck off for track limits in SQ1 - but the Sauber driver couldn’t find the time and qualified 20th overall for the sprint, half a second off next-best driver Albon.

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