Verstappen claims Sprint pole in Austria as Mercedes struggles


Ahead of today's Shootout (groan), the air temperature is 17 degrees C, while the track temperature is 22 degrees. Following heavy rain over night it remains damp, with the threat of further downpours. Indeed there is a 40% chance of rain, though at least the wind has died down.

Of course, other than the weather, following yesterday's shenanigans the other factor the drivers will have to consider today is track limits, with no less than 47 violations during yesterday's qualifying session.

While Verstappen's pace is undoubted, Mercedes is unhappy, especially with Russell having failed to make it out of Q2. Then there's Perez.

Norris is delighted with the first phase of McLaren's upgrade package, while Aston Martin finally has both cars in the mix.

With the top nine covered by 0.779s yesterday, despite the conditions we can expect today (and tomorrow) to be equally tight.

The lights go green and Albon leads the way, followed by Sargeant, Ocon, Russell and Gasly. As more drivers emerge, most are on softs though Albon and Piastri are on Inters. Magnussen and Verstappen are on mediums.

"I have a brake-by-wire failure," reports Sainz.

As Russell posts a 10.819, Zhou spins at Turn 9 bringing out the yellows.

Sainz pits, smoke pouring from the back of his Ferrari which is pushed into its garage.

Verstappen posts a 10.201 and Tsunoda a 10.264, while Alonso goes third ahead of Hamilton and Magnussen.

De Vries goes quickest *8.898) as Verstappen has his time deleted.

"The tyres weren't ready," complains Hamilton as the times tumble with Tsunoda then Piastri going quickest.

As Norris posts a 7.755, Alonso goes second.

Leclerc can only manage seventh, as Russell goes fifth and Hamilton slips to tenth.

Now on softs, Albon goes quickest with a 7.506, while an 7.214 sees Verstappen go second.

Perez goes quickest (7.085) and Sargeant third (7.726), as Magnussen, Gasly, Bottas, Zhou and Sainz comprise the drop zone.

Hamilton improves to third with a 7.282 as Piastri complains he was impeded by Leclerc as the Ferrari driver entered the pits.

Hulkenberg goes second with a 7.188, onlt to be demoted when Hamilton stops the clock at 6.624.

With less than two minutes remaining, Sainz heads back out.

Alonso goes second, ahead of Tsunoda, Perez, Piastri and Hulkenberg.

While Hamilton has his time deleted, Leclerc fails to improve on 16th.

Albon goes third as Verstappen looks set to make a big imnprovement. Indeed, the Dutchman stiops the clock at 6.236.

Russell goes second, ahead of Norris , but both are demoted when Hulkenberg responds with a 6.548.

A 6.187 from Sainz as de Vries goes sixth.

Hamilton is in traffic and looks unlikely to improve.

Stroll goes fourth, as Hamilton aborts his lap and pits.

"That was bad timing," says the seven-time world champion, "are we out?" "Yes," comes the reply.

Russell reports a hydraulics failure as the stewards note the incident involving Piastri and Leclerc.

Quickest is Sainz, ahead of Verstappen, Hulkenberg, Stroll, Alonso, Magnussen, Russell, de Vries, Norris and Ocon.

We lose Zhou, Piastri, Hamilton, Bottas and Sargeant, who doesn't take news of his elimination well. "Noooo!" he screams.

Verstappen leads the way for Q2, the Red Bull driver followed by Magnussen, Norris, Ocon and Hulkenberg. Soft appear to be the preferred option.

Soon all bar Russell are on track.

Verstappen posts a benchmark 5.624, which, it has to be said, is some benchmark.

Norris goes second, ahead of Ocon, Magnussen and Perez.

A 5.985 sees Alonso go second as Stroll goes fourth and Albon eighth.

Leclerc goes ninth while teammate Sainz posts a 5.880 to go second.

There is frantic activity in the Mercedes garage as they seek to get Russell out on track with just 4:54 remaining.

Hulkenberg improves to seventh as the track continues to dry.

Perez goes second with a 5.836 demoting Alonso, who had just gone fastest in S3, to fourth.

Mercedes reports that Russell will play no further part in the session.

As Magnussen goes second (5.730), de Vries has his time deleted.

Ocon goes quickest with a 5.604, dropping Tsunoda into the danger zone along with Leclerc, Gasly and de Vries.

Tsunoda and Verstappen both have times deleted, but the Dutchman remains second.

Sainz goes quickest with a 5.434 as Leclerc looks to improve on 11th with just seconds remaining.

Magnussen improves to fourth with a 5.730.

A 5.673 sees Leclerc go fourth, while Norris goes fifth.

Stroll goes ninth while Tsunoda and Gasly fail to improve.

Quickest is Verstappen, who made a late improvement to 5.371, ahead of Sainz, Ocon,, Leclerc, Norris, Magnussen, Alonso, Perez, Stroll and Hulkenberg.

We lose Albon, Gasly, Tsunoda, de Vries and Russell.

Replay shows a moment for Hulkenberg who ran over a tyre and clouted a mechanic in his eagerness to get back on track.

At Alpine it's a case of expletives deleted from Gasly, and as for Tsunoda, well...

That said, the Japanese driver looked to have been impeded and has every right to be frustrated.

Check out our Saturday gallery from the Red Bull Ring here.

Ahead of Q3, once again Verstappen is eager and waiting. He heads out, followed by Perez, Ocon, Norris and Sainz, the Ferrari driver, like Hulkenberg, on mediums.

Perez is warned that there might be a few spots at Turn 1.

Verstappen crosses the line at 4.613, as Norris goes second, ahead of Perez and Ocon.

Sainz goes fourth, ahead of Alonso, while Stroll posts a 6.420 to go seventh.

While Hulkenberg goes fifth, teammate Magnussen can only manage eighth.

Leclerc is the last driver to begin a flying lap. The Monegasque crosses the line at 5.280 to go fifth, slower, on the softs, than his medium-shod teammate.

Stroll switches to the mediums in a strange strategic move for Aston Martin.

Norris aborts his lap, the Briton hoping that he can hold on to second.

Alonso can only manage fifth, while Stroll goes seventh and Verstappen looks set to post a mega lap.

The Dutchman crosses the line at 4.440, as Perez claims second with a 4.933.

Hulkenberg goes fourth while Leclerc remains sixth.

Verstappen has Sprint pole, ahead of Perez, Norris, Hulkenberg, Sainz, Leclerc, Alonso, Stroll, Ocon and Magnussen.

Albon is eleventh, ahead of Gasly, Tsunoda, de Vries, Russell, Zhou, Piastri, Hamilton, Bottas and Sargeant.

Check out our Saturday gallery from the Red Bull Ring here.

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Published: 01/07/2023
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