Max Verstappen clinched pole position ahead of the sprint in a dramatic qualifying session on Friday night – in which both Mercedes drivers retired – at the Red Bull Ring.
Sunny skies greeted the drivers after the morning’s rain and a soggy run up to the Austrian Grand Prix, with qualifying setting the grid for Saturday’s sprint – which in turn will set the grid for Sunday’s Grand Prix.
Mercedes entered Q3, perhaps hoping for pole position as Lewis Hamilton was third in the previous session, but the seven-time champion went into the barriers at Turn 7 to fly a red flag in the middle of the top 10 shootout, to leave him for the time being 10.
Teammate George Russell (P5) followed minutes later with a spin and a last corner crash, capping a miserable afternoon for the Silver Arrows.
After the second stoppage of Q3, a breathtaking battle for pole ensued, Verstappen lifting the proverbial roof off the Red Bull Ring with his final flight, leaving Leclerc in second place by just 0.029s and Carlos Sainz in third by 0.082s lie.
Red Bull race
Red Bull race
Sergio Perez was fourth for Red Bull with a time of 0.420s, Russell was fifth despite a crash.
Next on the board was Esteban Ocon of Alpine; his teammate Fernando Alonso was ninth. Between them were Kevin Magnussen in seventh and Mick Schumacher in eighth in a stunning performance for Haas.
AlphaTauri suffered a double elimination in Q2, with Pierre Gasly falling by less than a hundredth of a second and Yuki Tsunoda furious to qualify for a provisional 14th place. Alex Albon was 12th for Williams, ahead of Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas in P13, while Lando Norris was 15th for McLaren after numerous Q2 laps were scrapped for exceeding track limits.
Daniel Ricciardo will start behind his teammate in the sprint after retiring in P16. Lance Stroll was next on the board, 17th for Aston Martin as he shares the penultimate row with Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu on Saturday.
Williams’ Nicholas Latifi qualified 19th for the sprint, with Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel last and 20th, who also had a lap for Track Limits.
Q1 – Ferrari set the pace as Ricciardo and Aston Martin retired
Teams wasted no time in getting ready for Q1, the track buzzing with activity under clear blue skies.
With eight minutes to go, Verstappen briefly went into the lead but his lap was canceled leaving teammate Perez in first – ahead of Alpine’s Alonso and Ferrari’s Leclerc in a top-three split of just 0.057s. Sainz finished fourth after also scrapping his first flyer due to track limits.
With Verstappen and Hamilton still not timed at this point and track conditions set to improve, there was still plenty of time on the table – both Williams (Albon went too far at Turn 9) and Aston Martins in the drop zone along with the championship leader .
Thanks to a lap of 1.05.852 minutes, Verstappen got five minutes to reach the top. However, the Ferraris edged him out in the order shortly after, with Sainz second and Leclerc first, 0.433s clear of the third-placed Red Bull driver.
Alonso finished fourth ahead of Hamilton, while Red Bull’s Perez finished sixth ahead of Russell’s other Mercedes.
With a new engine (part of his existing pool) following his break in FP1, McLaren driver Norris finished eighth in Q1 ahead of the Haas duo (led by Magnussen over Schumacher in P10) and Bottas in 11th for Alfa Romeo.
AlphaTauri’s Tsunoda and Ocon in the Alpine were next in line, followed by Albon’s Williams.
AlphaTauri driver Gasly was the last man to make it into Q2 in 16th, 0.024s clear of McLaren’s Ricciardo. Aston Martin didn’t get into the next session either, Vettel was 20th with an erased lap time while Stroll did better in P17.
Between them were Alfa Romeo’s Zhou, 18th, and Williams driver Latifi in P19.
Eliminated: Ricciardo, Stroll, Zhou, Latifi, Vettel
Q2 – Leclerc and Verstappen keep Hamilton at bay
Mercedes’ Hamilton topped the charts early in the second quarter, his teammate Russell was third while Verstappen separated the pair, 0.033s back. That kept the Ferraris in P4 and P5, but there was still time on the clock to find time and seven drivers still had to do a flying lap.
With five minutes to go, Bottas was the vulnerable driver in P10, with Red Bull’s Perez overstepping 0.139s behind at Turn 9 and Norris losing two lap times by having separate breakaways at Turn 1 and Turn 4 to sit last . Albon and the AlphaTauri pair were the other riders at risk of retirement. Meanwhile, Hamilton had improved at the front to hold Verstappen 0.093s adrift… for now.
Leclerc and Verstappen improved, the former 0.087s ahead of the latter, while Hamilton was third by a margin of 0.188s to hold Sainz in fourth. Russell rounded out the top five and Perez made it out of the drop zone in sixth.
Both Haas drivers moved into Q3, Magnussen in seventh and Schumacher in tenth, with Ocon and Alonso making double Q3 appearances for Alpine in eighth and ninth respectively.
Gasly improved, but only to 11th (missing Q3 by 0.009s), followed by Albon and Bottas in 13th. Tsunoda found happiness at Turn 1 and his frustration was audible as he took a provisional P14 for the sprint – after Norris was last three laps axed. “I’m afraid to hit the brakes,” said the McLaren driver.
Eliminated: Gasly, Albon, Bottas, Tsunoda, Norris
Q3 – Both Mercedes crash before the Verstappen pole
No one rushed out to set a time in Q3, but it soon became clear that Perez may have gone too far at Turn 8 in his successful attempt to exit Q2 – resulting in his being called to the stewards after the session became.
Leclerc led Russell and Ocon early, while Hamilton repelled his second attempt (nearly backtracking into a fast-moving Leclerc) despite a purple first sector – before a roar from the harsh orange sea of fans greeted Verstappen. And the Dutchman delivered to take provisional pole by 0.091s over Leclerc, while Sainz finished third for Ferrari ahead of Perez in P4 for Red Bull.
Then came the red flag and break – for Hamilton. A bit of oversteer at Turn 7 sent him into the gravel, the right side of his W13 hitting the barriers. He walked away but will start an interim 10th for the sprint.
After a lengthy break, the session resumed with about five minutes remaining. But there would be another red flag. And this time for the other Mercedes driver – Russell, pulling away from this one – who spun and crashed at the final corner to interrupt proceedings with two and a half minutes on the clock.
What followed was a stunning battle for pole, Sainz shot to the front, Leclerc improved to take provisional pole and then Verstappen beat both Ferraris to first place, with his Monegasque rival just 0.029s and the Spaniard 0.082 seconds left.
Perez was 0.420s adrift of his teammate in P4, Russell a provisional fifth and then Ocon sixth for Alpine. The Haas duo put on a brilliant show, Magnussen finished seventh ahead of Schumacher in eighth – Alonso stayed ninth in the other Alpine.
Scenes of celebration in the Red Bull garage (and in the stands) – as the Mercedes crews have a long night ahead of FP2 and the Austrian Sprint on Saturday.
Max Verstappen: “It was a very long wait between the two runs and that’s never great, once you get into the rhythm it’s nice to just keep going. Also you know the track temperatures have dropped, the wind has changed a bit but in the end it was a very tight qualifying and it’s also a really challenging track to get everything right. There aren’t that many corners, but the corners you have are pretty tricky, it’s really easy to make a mistake, but of course very happy with pole, but I also know that you can get the points tomorrow and Sunday .
“I think we have a great car. Normally qualifying isn’t our forte so obviously I’m just hoping for a clean turn 1 and a good start. Anything can happen from there but I’m confident about our car. ” to have.
“It’s amazing to see the crowd here and to see so much Orange and the support I’ve had here for a couple of years now. It definitely puts a smile on my face and I hope we can make it a great weekend.”
The second sprint of 2022 takes place on Saturday at 16:30 local time – after FP2 at 12:30 local time – with Verstappen leading the field in the 100km race. Head here to see how to catch the action on F1 TV.