Verstappen beats Norris to pole, Hamilton fourth

Max Verstappen will start on pole for the third race in a row after pipping surprise front row starter Lando Norris at the Austrian Grand Prix.

This article originally appeared in The Phuket News.

Lewis Hamilton struggled in his Mercedes and will line up fourth, from where he’s almost certain to take more pain on his 18-point deficit.

Verstappen took provisional pole with his first lap of the shootout but couldn’t improve with his second attempt. Worse still, in leaving pit lane first to try to avoid traffic he incidentally provided a useful slipstream to McLaren’s Norris.

Norris was just peaking in a strong qualifying hour for the Briton, and he maximised the slipstream to run Verstappen surprisingly close, crossing the line just 0.048 seconds adrift to secure a front-row start.

It was a bittersweet result for Verstappen, who was unhappy with his placement on the track for his final lap.

“I think Q3 was pretty bad,” he said. “I’m of course happy to be first, but not the way we got it, so there’s stuff to look into.

“To be twice on pole here nevertheless is pretty good, so hopefully we can finish it off tomorrow.”

Norris was pleased to start on the front row after qualifying an impressive fourth at this circuit last weekend, putting another round of strong points on the table for McLaren.

“I feel epic, it was cool,” he said. “I guess after last race I wanted to do that one more step, and I did two more, so it’s nice.

“It’s probably one of the best laps I’ve done.

“Tomorrow’s race is going to be tough, but we did the best job we could today.”

Perez made Red Bull Racing’s afternoon sweeter with third on the grid, ahead of both Mercedes cars, and the Mexican hinted there will be more to come from him and the car on Sunday.

“In the end we got a good lap and a good starting position for tomorrow, because I believe tomorrow we’ve got a better race car than in quali,” he said.

Hamilton was 0.294 seconds slower than Verstappen on his way to fourth ahead of teammate Valtteri Bottas in fifth, and practice data suggests neither driver has the pace to take the race to the leading Red Bull Racing cars.

Hamilton suggested victory is “out of the question” and that his would be a race of damage limitation in the championship fight.

Pierre Gasly led teammate Yuki Tsunoda for a superb AlphaTauri 6-7 result ahead of Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel, though the German is under a penalty cloud for impeding Fernando Alonso in Q2.

George Russell scored his best qualifying result for Williams with ninth in the team’s first pole shootout appearance since 2018, beating Aston Martin’s Lando Stroll to the place.

Ferrari teammates Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc will start alongside each other in 11th and 12th as the highest placed drivers with free choice of starting tyre for the race, a potential strategic advantage after both drivers demonstrated strong Sunday pace at this circuit last weekend.

Daniel Ricciardo qualified a lowly 13th, 11 places behind teammate Norris, the Australian still struggling to master his McLaren in qualifying.

Fernando Alonso was enraged to encounter a slowing Sebastian Vettel at the end of his last flying lap, forcing him to slow and ruining his time.

Alfa Romeo teammate Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Raikkonen qualified on the eighth row in 15th and 16th.

Esteban Ocon will start 17th for Alpine alongside Nicholas Latifi in the Williams. Mick Schumacher qualified 19th ahead of teammate Nikita Mazepin on the back row.