Formula 1 championship leader Max Verstappen secured pole position for the Austrian Grand Prix in Friday qualifying, narrowly seeing off the challenge from Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.
A fifth Q3 absence in nine F1 rounds in 2023 befell Verstappen’s team-mate Sergio Perez, though, even though he comfortably had the pace to get into that top 10.
Perez’s three flying laps in Q2 that would’ve easily taken him to the final part of qualifying were all deleted for last-sector track limits breaches, the Mexican responding with a bewildered “no way, where?” when told that he again fell foul on his final effort.
Perez has his lap time deleted again 👀
— Formula 1 (@F1) June 30, 2023
Verstappen himself had quick laps deleted in Q1 and Q2, but stayed within the limits through Q3 – despite being made to work for his pole by Leclerc.
He had two tenths in hand over Leclerc after the opening runs, but had to find another tenth – because Leclerc’s subsequent improvement left him just 0.048 seconds behind Verstappen’s benchmark.
Leclerc’s team-mate Carlos Sainz was third, two tenths off Verstappen, while Lando Norris was a superb fourth in his upgraded McLaren, having featured up front all throughout qualifying.
A late improvement by Lewis Hamilton elevated the Mercedes driver into fifth, ahead of Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll – who outqualified team-mate Fernando Alonso for the second time this year, this time by 0.018s.
Nico Hulkenberg got Haas into Q3 again, this time settling for eighth place, followed by Alpine’s Pierre Gasly and Williams driver Alex Albon.
Albon’s best Q3 lap was chalked off due to track limits, but would’ve been only good enough for 10th anyway.
Despite widespread laptime deletions, a struggling George Russell couldn’t drag his Mercedes W14 into Q3, instead ending up 11th.
But it could’ve been worse because like Perez, Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and McLaren’s Oscar Piastri – in the older-spec MCL60 rather than the upgraded version driven by Norris – had Q3-worthy laps deleted for track limits and ended up behind Russell.
Valtteri Bottas had spun at the first corner on his very first flying lap in Q1, perhaps distracted by the sight of Perez’s Red Bull close ahead as he attacked the apex, and his Alfa Romeo team faced an anxious wait as he struggled to get his C43 into neutral gear.
🚩 RED FLAG 🚩
— Formula 1 (@F1) June 30, 2023
The stoppage brought out the red flag, but the Alfa did eventually get going again – and Bottas would narrowly escape Q1.
He was among those to have their best laptimes deleted in Q2, but wouldn’t have troubled the final segment anyway – and ended up 14th thanks to Perez’s dramas.
AlphaTauri driver Yuki Tsunoda was eliminated by a last-second Bottas improvement in the first segment, 0.021s away from a Q2 spot and 16th on the grid.
He was followed by Bottas’s Alfa team-mate Zhou Guanyu, who expressed frustration on the team radio with his final outlap, and Williams rookie Logan Sargeant.
Sargeant, who lamented “leaving too much in the last corner” but felt it “wasn’t a bad lap”, ended up just under three tenths off team-mate Albon’s Q1 time.
The final row of the grid was made up of Haas driver Kevin Magnussen – who had been seventh in practice but rued what he felt was a downshift glitch on the run to Turn 3 on his decisive lap – and Nyck de Vries.
The under-pressure Dutchman was two tenths off team-mate Tsunoda.
|Nyck de Vries