Max Verstappen claimed his second pole position in a row for the Styrian GP as the Red Bull driver maintained his championship momentum ahead of Lewis Hamilton at the team’s home track.
Hamilton set the third-quickest time of qualifying behind Valtteri Bottas but will start alongside Verstappen on the front row in second due to a three-place grid penalty for his Mercedes team-mate for spinning in the pit lane on Friday.
Red Bull had appeared in control throughout qualifying around the short but fast Red Bull Ring and Verstappen’s first Q3 lap of 1:03.841 proved to be comfortably sufficient for pole.
Lando Norris, enjoying a stunning season, starred again for McLaren to take what becomes third on the grid for Sunday’s race, with the Briton outpacing the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez.
Norris lapped just 0.053s slower than Hamilton, whereas McLaren team-mate Daniel Ricciardo was knocked out in Q2 and starts 13th.
Bottas, meanwhile, will drop from second to fifth on Sunday’s grid.
Styrian GP Qualifying: Top 10
1) Max Verstappen, Red Bull
2) Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes*
3) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
4) Lando Norris, McLaren
5) Sergio Perez, Red Bull
6) Pierre Gasly, AlpahTauri
7) Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
8) Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri*
9) Fernando Alonso, Alpine
10) Lance Stroll, Aston Martin
*three-place grid penalties to be applied
Full Qualifying results
Red Bull maintain momentum at home track
Both teams looking for every thousandth of performance from themselves and against their rivals.
Toto even came to the Skypad to see if he could learn anything from the side by side comparison with Max. #NoStoneUnturned
— Karun Chandhok (@karunchandhok) June 19, 2021
Mercedes had appeared set to challenge for their first pole position in four races after stronger form through practice than last week in France but the Verstappen-Red Bull combination proved too strong all the way through the three-part knockout qualifying.
Saving an additional set of soft tyres to complete three runs instead of the usual two in Q3, Hamilton was 0.226s adrift of Verstappen first Q3 attempt and then quickly lost time on his last run, before running wide at the penultimate corner. He was demoted to third by Bottas as a result, but the Finn’s grid penalty made that late Mercedes switch academic for Hamilton.
“I’ve been giving it absolutely everything, not the greatest of second [runs], but nonetheless it’s still on the front row after the penalty,” said Hamilton, who has now not been on pole for four races.
“We go into the race tomorrow for a fight.”
Verstappen is also expecting a close battle for race-day supremacy, seven days on from a tussle with Hamilton at Paul Ricard that went down to the penultimate lap.
“I’m sure again it will be very tight,” said the 12-point championship leader. “Hopefully as interesting as in France.”
Big names drop out in Q2, while Russell nearly makes top 10
On a strong day for AlphaTauri, Pierre Gasly impressed again to take sixth while rookie team-mate Yuki Tsunoda delivered a step forward in his Saturday form to qualify eighth. However, the Japanese driver was later handed a three-place grid penalty for blocking Bottas in Q3 and so drops to 11th on the grid.
Charles Leclerc was the sole Ferrari to make the top 10 in seventh place with team-mate Carlos Sainz one of several big names to drop out in Q2.
Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel and McLaren’s Ricciardo were the others, while Alpine’s Esteban Ocon was the shock casualty of Q1.
But Fernando Alonso continued his strong recent form relative to Ocon to take eighth, while Lance Stroll was the quicker Aston Martin driver in qualifying for the first time since Barcelona as he ended a run of two successive Q1 exits.
Eight. Thousandths. Game on tomorrow. 👊 pic.twitter.com/usucr2b8wT
— George Russell (@GeorgeRussell63) June 26, 2021
George Russell was the other of Saturday’s standout performers.
Not only did the 23-year-old Briton continue his 100 per cent record of Q2 appearances this year, he came within a whisker of taking Williams into the pole shootout for his first time at the team. The Englishman missed out to Stroll by a miniscule margin of 0.008s.
Nonetheless, Tsunoda’s demotion means Russell starts from a best grid position of 10th in his 47 races for Williams after outqualifying three ostensibly faster cars.
The first of two consecutive races at the Red Bull Ring in the picturesque Styrian hills takes place at 2pm on Sunday, live only on Sky Sports F1 and Main Event. The build-up show starts at 12.30pm.