AUSTRIAN GP – Max Verstappen takes pole as Lando Norris shines, missing out by four hundredths of a second

Testing & Race Reports

Max Verstappen has beaten Lando Norris by four-hundredths of a second to take pole position for the Austrian Grand Prix. Much like last weekends qualifying session the Red Bull driver topped all three sessions eventually dining  Norris a maiden pole.

The Englishman picked up a tow on his first lap, and set the fastest first sector with Verstappen left behind, the final run, however, saw the Red Bull driver go four hundredths faster. However, Verstappen was did criticize his team for sending him out at the wrong time.

Sergio Perez was third, the Mexican going ahead of both Sir Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, after neither of the Mercedes drivers managed to improve. Perez pushed both Mercedes down the order after going almost a quarter of a second faster than the seven-time champion.

Verstappen said “I am of course happy to be first but not the way we got it. Something to look into but to be twice on pole here is nevertheless very good and hopefully we can finish it off tomorrow.”

“Softer compounds compared to last week so it will be tough to manage them in the race but just try to focus on our own race and we will try to win it.

Verstappen was three tenths faster than his championship rival as he looks for Red Bull’s fourth consecutive win in the hybrid era. It also underlines the step forward made by Honda, as all four cars were in the top seven with Pierre Gasly out qualifying his teammate Yuki Tsunoda by over a tenth and a half.

Sebastian Vettel was eighth for Aston Martin but has been placed under investigation for impeding Fernando Alonso at the end of Q2.

George Russell was the stand out performer in qualifying making it into the top ten shoot out as a Williams driver for the first time. Russel, who qualified second in a Mercedes in Sakhir in December, got the team into the top ten. He only managed a single attempt in Q3 which put him ahead of Vettel’s teammate Lance Stroll.

Both Ferrari’s had attempted to get through Q2 on the mediums, but when Russell switched to the soft tyres they were left eleventh and twelfth. Carlos Sainz going four-hundredths of a second faster than his teammate Charles Leclerc, the Italian manufacture still appears to be struggling with straight-line speed at high speed circuits.

Daniel Ricciardo was again outshone by his teammate Norris, the Australian failed to improve despite switching to the soft tyre. Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel tripped over each other as they attempted to get out of the drop zone at the end of Q2.

The Aston Martin driver appeared to step on the gas when Alonso came up behind him but the damage to the Spaniard’s lap was done as he had to lift off heading through the fast right-hander. The Alpine driver should have been able to knock out Russell but was impeded by Vettel.

The drivers had been warned ahead of FP3 not to drive slowly between the final two corners via an update to race director Michael Masi’s event notes, with Vettel therefore likely to take a penalty over the incident. That made Alonso annoyed, and Vettel unable to set a second lap.

Antonio Giovinazzi was fifteenth fastest, the Alfa Romeo driver failing to repeat his form from FP3. Russell’s improvement to get out of the drop zone knocked out Giovinazzi’s teammate Kimi Raikkonen, the Finn failing to improve enough to get himself out of the drop zone.

Esteban Ocon starts seventeenth, the Alpine driver failing to improve and was shuffled out of qualifying after failing to improve at the end of Q1.

Jack

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