Charles Leclerc set a new track record on his way to pole position ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix. The Ferrari driver pulled out a very good lap to beat Lewis Hamilton to take pole by two and a half seconds.
The final moments of Q3 proved as tense as ever, Hamilton setting the pace before the Monacan improved going a quarter of a second faster than the five times champion. It wasn’t an easy session, Mercedes looking to be in danger of being a surprise early casualty and were forced to run again in Q1.
Meanwhile, the Monacan looked on it from the start, taking a provisional pole with a 03.208, before improving by two tenth of a second. Hamilton moaned that he was struggling with the straight line speed leaving him behind the Ferrari.
Hamilton will drop to fourth after the stewards awarded him a three-place grid penalty for impeding Kimi Raikkonen
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was third after beating Valtteri Bottas by half a second. While an engine issue at the start of Q3 stopped Sebastian Vettel from setting a time, Ferrari confirming that the German had engine issues.
After the session, Vettel told reporters that Ferrari couldn’t fire up the car making the quick
Both Mercedes drivers and Verstappen will start the race on medium-compound Pirellis having used those tyres to set their Q2 times, with the rest of the top 10 using softs.
Leclerc said, “The car felt amazing. In P1 I struggled a little bit and then from P2 it was quite good and a big pleasure to drive this car on the limit. On what we tested in P2, we’re pretty happy with the choice we’ve made, so we’ll see what happens tomorrow.”
Hamilton added “Congratulations to Charles, he’s been quick all weekend. Positioning was so difficult out there and I always out at the front so I was never getting the slipstream. I think it’s quite cool to see three different teams in the top three positions.
Vettel said “Obviously the car was broken, so we couldn’t fire it up and go, so we lost part of Q2 and then Q3 completely. We fairly quickly made the decision to change, but it’s not so easy. We had to take the bodywork off and it’s not so easy to get there.”
That allowed Kevin Magnussen to go fifth with the Haas driver showing some pace going three hundredths faster than the McLaren of Lando Norris. However it wasn’t plain sailing for the Dane, he locked up early in Q3 and ran wide at Schlossgold. But starts tenth because of a gearbox change.
An impressive qualifying for Alfa Romeo sees Kimi Raikkonen seventh and Antonio Giovinazzi eighth, Pierre Gasly was unable to improve on his final run in Q3 leaving him ninth ahead of Vettel.
Romain Grosjean missed out on a place in Q3 by two hundredths off a second, when teammate Magnussen improved. The Frenchman set two times separated by just one-thousandth of a second on his second run, but it wasn’t enough to overhaul Magnussen.
Another unable to improve was Nico Hulkenberg, after being caught up in traffic at the end of Q2 when Magnussen went off at Schlossgold. That held up a number of cars, Hulkenberg has a five-place grid penalty.
Alex Albon was thirteenth, but the Toro Rosso joins those with penalties at the back after taking the ‘Spec 3’ Honda V6 and latest turbocharger. Daniel Ricciardo only had one run in Q2 and ended up fourteenth, ahead of the McLaren of Carlos Sainz Jr.
The Spaniard, another one with penalties was fifteenth after he opted not to set a time in Q2 with a engine component changes caused by switching to the ‘spec B’ Renault V6.
Sergio Perez was fastest of the drivers knocked out in Q1, he was four hundredths faster than teammate Lance Stroll. The Canadian briefly lifted himself out of the drop zone in the final minutes of Q1 before being shuffled back as others improved.
Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat was eighteenth, half-a-second slower than Stroll, after traffic ruined what should have been his best lap. The Russian caught out by George Russell at Rindt, as the pack backed up to start the lap causing him to run wide.
The stewards investigated the incident after the session, awarding the Englishman three place penalty for impeding Kvyat. Kvyat, who told the team at the time that he “almost killed someone,” was concerned by the safety implications of the incident.
George Russell fastest of the two Williams drivers, three-tenths ahead of team-mate Robert Kubica, although both will move off the back row thanks to penalties for Albon and Sainz. A three place grid penalty drops the Englishman behind Kubica for impeding Kvyat.