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Verstappen and Norris fill Austrian GP front row


Ahead of today's qualifying session, the air temperature is 25 degrees C, while the track temperature is 49 degrees. It is bright and sunny. Again, there is 0% chance or rain.

Having seemingly given Mercedes a sniff of opportunity yesterday afternoon, this morning Max Verstappen and Red Bull brought their title rivals back to earth with a bang, out-pacing the pair by over 0.5s.

However, teammate Perez remains (0.8s) off the pace, placing doubt on where exactly he will qualify today. Last week the team, in an effort to get the Mexican further up the grid, split its tyre strategy, but this leads to repercussions in the race.

The signs are that - despite the softer tyres - this week will be a repeat of last week, with Verstappen out front and the Mercedes pair reduced to chasing him... albeit from a distance.

While AlphaTauri has looked strong this weekend, as is so often the case, Tsunoda gets a little ahead of himself which allows the mistakes to creep in. Following his bad luck last week, Gasly deserves a strong result this weekend, and a decent result this afternoon will go some way to making this happen.

The Alfa Romeo pair keep popping up in unusually high positions, so it will be interesting to see how they fare over the next hour.

Ferrari have looked good, but as ever front tyre wear is proving to be an issue, so while the SF21 might have pace it cannot sustain it.

The big disappointment earlier was McLaren, with both drivers well down the order, while Aston Martin will be looking to get both cars into Q3.

As ever traffic is likely to be a problem, particularly in Q1, while the FIA has warned drivers not to slow down at Turns 9 and 10 in order to create a space for their flying laps.

Ahead of the green light, the roar from the crowd is a most welcome sound considering the impact of the pandemic.

The Haas pair are first out, however, for the most part, the crowd only has eyes - and roars - for one man.

Mazepin posts a 7.106, while Schumacher responds with a 6.127.

A number of drivers head down the pitlane, among them Verstappen.

Most are on softs though there are a few on mediums, among them the Aston Martin pair.

Stroll posts 5.523, Gasly a 5.434, Vettel a 5.354, Raikkonen a 5.028, Norris a 4.748 and Verstappen a 4.249. Game on!

Sainz goes second (4.596) ahead of Norris, Perez and Ricciardo.

A 4.506 sees Hamilton go second, ahead of Bottas (4.563).

It really is as fast and frantic as it appears.

Gasly's opening time is deleted.

"That was a very clean lap, Sainz is told.

On the mediums, Tsunoda can only manage 11th, ahead of fellow medium runners Vettel and Stroll.

Russell goes tenth with a 5.155 on the softs. Moment later is demoted when Vettel posts 5.016.

No sooner has Norris gone second with a 4.345 than Alonso posts 4.472 to take third.

Perez can only manage ninth (4.833), but is promoted when Leclerc's time is deleted.

While Alonso is third, teammate Ocon can only manage 17th (5.436).

With 2 minutes remaining most head out for the final assault, though Verstappen, Norris, Alonso and the Mercedes pair appear to be staying put.

Ocon posts a PB in S1, then again he needs to. Schumacher and Mazepin also post PBs in S1.

Vettel goes quicker in S2 and Ocon goes thirteenth with a 5.051.

Vettel goes ninth, but is demoted by Gasly (4.841).

Tsunoda goes 12th, Leclerc 11th while Latifi fails to improve.

A 4.907 sees Russell go 12th.

Again, Ricciardo makes it by the skin of his teeth, the Australian finishing 15th.

Quickest is Verstappen, ahead of Norris, Alonso, Hamilton, Bottas, Sainz, Giovinazzi, Perez, Gasly and Vettel.

We lose Raikkonen, Ocon, Latifi, Schumacher and Mazepin.

Perez heads out first as Q2 gets underway, the Mexican sporting mediums.

As he begins his first flying lap, Perez has the track to himself. At the line he posts a 4.554, which is unlikely to be enough.

As Perez carries out his cool-down lap, there is no rush to join him on track.

That said, Perez pits, the Mexican clearly feeling that either he cannot improve on those tyres or is to swap to the softs.

At which point Hamilton leads a whole gaggle (?) of cars down the pitlane and up the hill to Turn 1.

Verstappen wastes no time in overtaking a couple of cars in front of him, including the Ferrari pair.

Most are on mediums, including the big guns, while a few are on softs.

Verstappen goes quickest in S1 as Hamilton crosses the line at 4.501.

Moments later, Verstappen stops the clock at 4.208, the crowd cheers.

Bottas goes fourth, ahead of Sainz and Leclerc, but is demoted by Stroll and then Gasly.

Birthday boy Vettel (softs) posts a 4.493 to go second, but is demoted by Perez - still on mediums - and then Norris (4.483).

Ahead of the final assault, it's: Verstappen, Norris, Perez, Vettel, Hamilton, Stroll, Gasly, Bottas, Russell and Tsunoda.

Sainz is 11th, ahead of Leclerc, Alonso and Ricciardo, however, of those three, only the Spaniard was on softs.

Alonso is clearly unhappy with the actions of a number of drivers, particularly the "Toro Rosso" drivers.

Alonso is first out for the final assault, and as more drivers join him, Verstappen, Norris and the Ferrari pair stick with mediums, as do the Mercedes pair. Surprisingly, Russell also opts for the yellow-banded rubber.

Despite the warning, there are cars backed up at Turn 9, and coming up behind a slow Vettel, Alonso fails to improve.

"What the f***, I cannot believe it," screams an understandably unhappy Alonso.

Verstappen posts a 3.927, while Gasly goes second only to see Hamilton demote the Briton with a 4.258.

Bottas goes third and Russell tenth, the Briton crossing the line - on mediums - at 4.553.

Ironically, Vettel, who ruined Alonso's lap, didn't cross the line it time to begin a final lap, though in the end it didn't matter as he was safe.

On the other hand, the birthday boy can expect an unwanted gift from the stewards.

So, Verstappen is quickest, ahead of Hamilton, Bottas, Gasly, Norris, Perez, Vettel, Tsunoda, Stroll and Russell.

We lose Sainz, Leclerc, Ricciardo, Alonso and Giovinazzi, some big names there, Ferrari paying the price for sticking with the mediums.

Check out our Saturday gallery from Spielberg, here.


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1. Posted by Lapps, 03/07/2021 16:27

"Understand Red Bull on Pole as they seem to have an edge at the moment, but can anyone remember both Mercedes Cars being behind a car with a customer Mercedes engine??"

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