Max Verstappen took pole position ahead of the Sprint in a dramatic Friday evening qualifying session – with both Mercedes drivers crashing out – at the Red Bull Ring.
Sunny skies welcomed the drivers after rain in the morning and a drenched lead-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 seeing as Lewis Hamilton was third in the previous session, but the seven-time champion went into the barriers at Turn 7 to bring out a red flag in the middle of the top-10 shootout to leave him a provisional 10th.
Team mate George Russell (P5) followed suit minutes later with a spin then crash at the final corner, capping off a miserable afternoon for the Silver Arrows.
Following the second stoppage of Q3 came a stunning fight for pole, Verstappen raising the proverbial roof off the Red Bull Ring with his final flying effort, leaving Leclerc second by just 0.029s and Carlos Sainz third by 0.082s.
Red Bull Racing
Red Bull Racing
Sergio Perez took fourth for Red Bull by 0.420s, with Russell fifth despite crashing out.
Next on the board was Alpine’s Esteban Ocon; his team mate Fernando Alonso was ninth. Between them were Kevin Magnussen in seventh and Mick Schumacher eighth in a stunning showing for Haas.
AlphaTauri suffered a double elimination in Q2, with Pierre Gasly missing out by under a hundredth of a second and Yuki Tsunoda furious to qualify a provisional 14th. Alex Albon took 12th for Williams ahead of Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas in P13, while Lando Norris was 15th for McLaren having had numerous Q2 laps delete for exceeding track limits.
Daniel Ricciardo will start behind his team mate in the Sprint having been eliminated in P16. Lance Stroll was next on the board, 17th for Aston Martin as he shares the penultimate row with Zhou Guanyu of Alfa Romeo on Saturday.
Williams’ Nicholas Latifi qualified 19th for the Sprint, with Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel last and 20th having also had a lap chalked for track limits.
Q1 – Ferrari set the pace as Ricciardo and Aston Martin bow out
Teams wasted no time emerging for Q1, the track abuzz with activity under clear, blue skies.
With eight minutes left on the clock, Verstappen briefly went top but had his lap chalked off, leaving team mate Perez first – ahead of Alpine’s Alonso and Ferrari’s Leclerc in a top-three split by just 0.057s. Sainz was fourth having also had his first flyer struck off for track limits.
With Verstappen and Hamilton yet to set a time by that point, and with track conditions still set to ramp up, there was plenty of time on the table – both Williams (Albon going wide at Turn 9) and Aston Martins in the drop zone along with the championship leader.
Verstappen got his time in with five minutes to go top thanks to a lap of 1m 05.852s. However, the Ferraris bumped him down the order soon after, Sainz going second and Leclerc first by 0.433s to the third-place Red Bull driver.
Alonso took fourth ahead of Hamilton, while Red Bull’s Perez finished sixth in front of the other Mercedes of Russell.
With a new engine (part of his existing pool) after his FP1 stoppage, McLaren driver Norris ended up eighth in Q1 ahead of the Haas duo (led by Magnussen over Schumacher in P10) and Bottas in 11th for Alfa Romeo.
Tsunoda of AlphaTauri and Ocon in the Alpine were next in the order, behind them the Williams of Albon.
AlphaTauri driver Gasly was the last man to make it to Q2 by 0.024s over McLaren’s Ricciardo in 16th. Neither Aston Martin progressed to the next session either, Vettel 20th with a deleted lap time while Stroll fared better in P17.
Between them were Alfa Romeo’s Zhou, 18th, and Williams driver Latifi in P19.
Knocked out: Ricciardo, Stroll, Zhou, Latifi, Vettel
Q2 – Leclerc and Verstappen keep Hamilton at bay
Mercedes’s Hamilton topped the charts early in Q2, his team mate Russell third, while Verstappen split the pair, 0.033s off the pace. That left the Ferraris in P4 and P5 but there was still time on the clock, time to find, and seven drivers yet to turn a flying lap.
With five minutes remaining, Bottas was the driver at risk in P10 with Red Bull’s Perez 0.139s behind having gone wide at Turn 9, and Norris having had two lap times deleted thanks to separate excursions at Turn 1 and Turn 4 to sit last. Albon and the AlphaTauri pair were the other drivers at risk of elimination. Meanwhile at the top, Hamilton had improved to keep Verstappen 0.093s behind… for the time being.
Leclerc and Verstappen improved, the former 0.087s ahead of the latter, while Hamilton was third by a margin of 0.188s to keep Sainz 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 seventh and Schumacher 10th, with Ocon and Alonso making it a double Q3 appearance for Alpine in eighth and ninth respectively.
Gasly improved but only to 11th (missing out on Q3 by 0.009s), with Albon up next, and Bottas 13th. Tsunoda got tail-happy at Turn 1 and his frustration was audible as he took a provisional P14 for the Sprint – with Norris last having had three laps struck off. “I’m scared to hit the brakes,” said the McLaren driver.
Knocked out: Gasly, Albon, Bottas, Tsunoda, Norris
Q3 – Both Mercedes crash out before Verstappen pole
No one rushed out to set a time in Q3 but it soon became apparent that Perez may have gone wide at Turn 8 in his successful effort to emerge from Q2 – leading him to be summoned to the Stewards after the session.
Leclerc led Russell and Ocon early on while Hamilton backed off his second effort (almost backing into a fast-moving Leclerc) despite a purple first sector – before a roar from the raucous orange sea of fans welcomed Verstappen. And the Dutchman delivered, taking provisional pole by 0.091s over Leclerc, with Sainz third for Ferrari ahead of Perez in P4 for Red Bull.
Then came the red flag and pause – for Hamilton. A snap of oversteer at Turn 7 saw him go skating into the gravel, the right-hand side of his W13 hitting the barriers. He walked away, but will start a provisional 10th for the Sprint.
After a lengthy stoppage, the session resumed with around five minutes left. But there would be another red flag. And this time for the other Mercedes driver – Russell walking away from this one – who spun and crashed at the final corner to pause proceedings with two-and-a-half minutes on the clock.
What followed was a stunning battle for pole, Sainz shooting to the top, Leclerc improving to take provisional pole, and then Verstappen beating both Ferraris to top spot, leaving his Monegasque rival just 0.029s behind and the Spaniard 0.082s back.
Perez was 0.420s – investigation forthcoming – behind his team mate in P4, Russell a provisional fifth, and then Ocon sixth for Alpine. Haas’s pair put on a brilliant show, Magnussen seventh ahead of Schumacher in eighth – to leave Alonso ninth in the other Alpine.
Cue scenes of jubilance in the Red Bull garage (and in the grandstands) – while Mercedes’s crews will have a long night ahead of them before 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’re in the rhythm, it’s nice to just keep on going. Also, you know the track temperatures were dropping, the wind was changing a little bit, but at the end, it was a very tight qualifying, and it’s a really challenging track as well to get everything right. There aren’t that many corners, but the corners you have are quite tricky, it’s really easy to make a mistake. But of course very happy with pole; but I also know that tomorrow and Sunday, you can get the points.
“I think we have a great car. Normally… qualifying is not our strongest point, so I just hope of course to have a clean Turn 1, a good getaway. From then on, anything can happen but I feel confident with the car we have.
“It’s incredible to see the crowd here and see so much orange and the support I get now for a few years already here. It definitely brings 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 1630 local time – after FP2 at 1230 local time – with Verstappen to lead the field in the 100km dash. Head here to see how you can catch the action on F1 TV.