Max Verstappen took pole position ahead of the Sprint in a dramatic Friday night qualifying session – with both Mercedes drivers crashing – at the Red Bull Ring.
Sunny skies greeted the drivers after morning rain and a boozy preparation for 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 hoping perhaps for pole as Lewis Hamilton was third in the previous session, but the seven-time champion entered the barriers at Turn 7 to bring out a red flag midway through the shootout in the top 10 to leave him a provisional 10th.
His teammate George Russell (P5) followed suit a few minutes later with a spin and then a crash on the final corner, capping a miserable afternoon for the Silver Arrows.
After the second pit stop in Q3, a stunning battle for pole position ensued, with Verstappen lifting the proverbial roof of the Red Bull Ring with his last flying effort, leaving Leclerc second just 0.029s behind and Carlos Sainz third at 0.082s behind.
Running of the red bulls
Running of the red bulls
Sergio Perez took fourth for Red Bull by 0.420 seconds, Russell fifth despite crashing.
Next on the board was Alpine’s Esteban Ocon; his teammate Fernando Alonso finished ninth. Between them were Kevin Magnussen seventh and Mick Schumacher eighth in a superb performance for Haas.
AlphaTauri suffered a double elimination in Q2, with Pierre Gasly missing by less than a hundredth of a second and Yuki Tsunoda furious to qualify provisionally 14th. Alex Albon took 12th for Williams ahead of Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas in P13, while Lando Norris finished 15th for McLaren after having numerous Q2 laps scrapped for exceeding track limits.
Daniel Ricciardo will start behind his teammate in the Sprint after being eliminated in P16. Lance Stroll was next in line, 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 having also had a lap scored for the track limits.
Q1 – Ferrari sets the tone as Ricciardo and Aston Martin bow out
Teams wasted no time emerging for Q1, the track buzzing with activity under clear blue skies.
With eight minutes remaining on the clock, Verstappen briefly took the lead but his lap was scored, leaving team-mate Perez first – ahead of Alpine’s Alonso and Ferrari’s Leclerc in a top three split by just 0.057 seconds. Sainz finished fourth after also seeing his first flyer written off for the track limits.
With Verstappen and Hamilton yet to set a time by then, and with track conditions still poised to pick up speed, there was plenty of time on the table – both Williams (Albon starting wide at turn 9) and Aston Martins in the drop zone along with the championship leader.
Verstappen got his time five minutes ahead thanks to a lap of 1m 05.852s. However, the Ferraris dropped him soon after, with Sainz moving up to second and Leclerc first by 0.433 seconds to the third Red Bull driver.
Alonso took fourth ahead of Hamilton, while Red Bull’s Perez was sixth ahead of Russell’s other Mercedes.
With a new engine (part of his existing pool) after his retirement in FP1, the McLaren Norris driver finished eighth in Q1 ahead of the Haas duo (led by Magnussen on Schumacher in P10) and Bottas in 11th for Alfa Romeo.
Tsunoda from AlphaTauri and Ocon in the Alpine followed in order, behind them the Williams from Albon.
AlphaTauri driver Gasly was the last man to reach Q2, 0.024 seconds clear of McLaren’s Ricciardo in 16th. Neither Aston Martin progressed in the following session either, Vettel 20th with a lap time suppressed while Stroll fared better in P17.
Between them were Alfa Romeo’s Zhou, 18th, and the Williams driver Latifi in P19.
Eliminated: Ricciardo, Stroll, Zhou, Latifi, Vettel
Q2 – Leclerc and Verstappen keep Hamilton at bay
Mercedes’ Hamilton led the standings at the start of Q2, team-mate Russell third, while Verstappen split the pair, 0.033 seconds 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 had yet to do a fast lap.
With five minutes remaining, Bottas was the driver at risk in P10 with Red Bull’s Perez 0.139 seconds after passing Turn 9, and Norris having had two lap times suppressed thanks to separate excursions to Turn 1 and Turn 1. 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 within 0.093 seconds…for now.
Leclerc and Verstappen improved, with the former 0.087 seconds ahead of the second, while Hamilton finished third by a margin of 0.188 seconds to hold Sainz fourth. Russell rounded out the top five and Perez came out of the drop zone in sixth.
Both Haas drivers moved into Q3, Magnussen seventh and Schumacher 10th, with Ocon and Alonso making a double appearance in Q3 for Alpine eighth and ninth respectively.
Gasly improved but only in 11th (missing Q3 by 0.009s), with Albon next and Bottas 13th. Tsunoda had a happy tail at Turn 1 and his frustration was audible as he took a provisional P14 for the Sprint – Norris having last had three laps written out. “I’m afraid to brake,” said the McLaren driver.
Eliminated: Gasly, Albon, Bottas, Tsunoda, Norris
Q3 – Both Mercedes crash before Verstappen’s pole
No one rushed to set a time in Q3, but it soon became clear that Perez may have overshot Turn 8 in his successful effort to get out of Q2 – which led to him being summoned by the stewards after the session.
Leclerc led Russell and Ocon early on as Hamilton pulled back his second effort (almost backing into a fast-moving Leclerc) despite a purple early sector – before a hoarse orange sea roar from the fans greeted Verstappen. And the Dutchman delivered, taking provisional pole by 0.091 seconds over Leclerc, with Sainz third for Ferrari ahead of Perez in P4 for Red Bull.
Then came the red flag and the break – for Hamilton. An oversteer snap at Turn 7 saw him spinning through the gravel, the right side of his W13 hitting the barriers. He started again, but will provisionally start 10th for the Sprint.
After a long hiatus, the session resumed with about five minutes to go. But there would be another red flag. And this time for the other Mercedes driver – Russell running away from this one – who spun and crashed on the final corner to halt the proceedings with two and a half minutes on the clock.
What followed was a superb battle for pole, with Sainz firing up, Leclerc improving to take provisional pole, then Verstappen beating both Ferraris into first place, leaving his Monegasque rival just 0.029 seconds behind and the ‘Spanish at 0.082 seconds.
Perez was 0.420s – investigation to come – behind his teammate in P4, Russell a provisional fifth, then Ocon sixth for Alpine. The pair of Haas put on a brilliant display, Magnussen seventh ahead of Schumacher eighth – to leave Alonso ninth in the other Alpine.
Scenes of jubilation in the Red Bull garage (and in the stands) – while the Mercedes crews will have a long night ahead of them ahead of FP2 and the Austrian Sprint on Saturday.
Max Verstappen: “It was a very long wait between the two runs and it’s never great, once you’re in the rhythm it’s good to keep going. Also you know that the track temperatures drop, the wind changes a bit, but in the end it was a very close qualifying, and it’s also a very difficult track to do everything right. There aren’t a lot of corners, but the corners that you have are quite delicate, it’s really easy to make a mistake. But of course very happy with the pole, but I also know that tomorrow and Sunday you can take points.
“I think we have a great car. Normally… qualifying is not our strong point so of course I hope to have a clean turn 1, a good getaway. From there anything can happen but I feel confident with the car we have.
“It’s amazing to see the crowd here and to see so much orange and the support that I’ve been getting now for a few years here already. It certainly puts a smile on my face and hopefully we can make it a great weekend. “
The second Sprint of 2022 takes place on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. local time – after FP2 at 12:30 p.m. local time – with Verstappen leading the pack in the 100km. Head here to see how you can follow the action on F1 TV.