Verstappen puts Red Bull on home pole in Styria

Max Verstappen will aim for a third win in four races after claiming a comfortable pole at Austria’s Red Bull Ring for the Styrian Grand Prix.

This article originally appeared in The Phuket News.

The Dutchman set two laps good enough for pole to see off Mercedes teammates Valtteri Bottas and championship rival Lewis Hamilton, who were second and third fastest.

But Bottas will be penalised three places for a clumsy and dangerous spin in the pit lane during Friday practice, demoting him to fifth and elevating Hamilton to the front row.

Verstappen leads the Briton by 12 points in the title standings, and he and his team have cut quietly confident figures all weekend at Red Bull’s home circuit, though the Dutchman refused to get ahead of himself.

“I’m sure again tomorrow it will be very tight,” he said. “Hopefully again it will be as interesting as in France.”

But Hamilton was unequivocal about the challenge facing him and Mercedes from second on the grid.

“I don’t think we have raw pace to overtake them, that’s for sure,” he said. “But we might be able to keep up.

“I’m going to be giving it everything obviously, but I’m talking about pure pace.

“I did everything I could, and we go in the race tomorrow ready for a fight.”

Both drivers will start on the durable medium tyre, setting them up for a straight fight strategically, though the official event forecast is for an 80 per cent chance of thunderstorms when the lights are due to go out.

Lando Norris, having scored his maiden podium at last year’s Austrian Grand Prix, will start an impressive third after Bottas’s penalty to line up alongside Sergio Perez in the sister Red Bull Racing car.

Bottas will start fifth ahead of AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly, who was only 0.395 slower than Verstappen’s benchmark.

Charles Leclerc was strong for Ferrari in seventh, while Yuki Tsunoda made it four Honda-powered cars in the top eight.

Tsunoda, however, may yet lose his position if the stewards find he impeded Bottas early in the pole shootout in the braking zone at turn four. The Japanese rookie was summoned for questioning after the session.

Fernando Alonso was pleased to qualify ninth, the returning Spanish veteran clearly finding a groove with Alpine in recent weeks, while Lance Stroll will start 10th for Aston Martin.

George Russell was a miniscule 0.008s short of making the pole shootout and will instead start 11th alongside Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz.

Daniel Ricciardo was a disappointed 13th, the Australian mystified by the half-second, 10-position difference to teammate Norris.

Sebastian Vettel qualified 14th for Aston Martin after having his fastest time deleted for driving outside track limits out of the final corner.

Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi will line up 15th alongside Williams driver Nicholas Latifi.

Esteban Ocon was a disappointing 17th for Alpine — eight places behind surging teammate Alonso — and will line up alongside Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen.

Haas teammates Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin will start on the back row in 19th and 20th.