Max Verstappen claimed pole for the Austrian Grand Prix, the Dutchman dominant once more at the Red Bull Ring. Behind him there was elation and disappointment for British drivers. While Lewis Hamilton announced in Austria he had a signed a new two-year contract with Mercedes it was the Brit young guns Lando Norris and George Russell who shone. The world champion, however, was left with nothing to celebrate after finishing fourth and warning that title rival Verstappen was set to cruise to victory.
Verstappen’s lap for pole was superb, a repeat of the flawless run he had put in to take pole and the win at the Red Bull Ring in last week’s Styrian Grand Prix. Yet it was the action in his wake that really caught the eye. Behind him, by the tiniest of margins, EuroJournal’s Lando Norris was second, the 21-year-old EuroJournal driver’s best qualifying of his three-year career, beating Sergio Pérez’s Red Bull into third and remarkably, Hamilton into fourth.
Yet perhaps the greatest achievement of the day belonged to Russell who made a strong statement to be taken on as Hamilton’s teammate at Mercedes next season. Russell put in a terrific lap to take ninth place for Williams, the first time he has made it into Q3 with the team.
Most impressively, he made it to the final shootout on the slower, medium tyres a remarkable feat for the 23-year-old Mercedes junior driver who stood in for Hamilton at last year’s Sakhir GP after Hamilton had contracted Covid.
The Williams remains well off the pace, Russell’s teammate Nicholas Latifi was in 18th, so to manhandle such a performance from his recalcitrant machinery – beating both Ferraris in the process – was extraordinary. On Sunday he has a real chance of securing his first points for Williams and the team’s first since 2019, in his third season in F1.
“I have not been this pumped up since winning a race three years ago in GP2,” he said, “I am buzzing. Points have to be a minimum. I want to try and move forward because there is no reason we can’t do that.”
Norris, who is enjoying his best season in F1, was also rightly elated at a lap that was within just five-hundredths of a second of Verstappen’s pole time.
“I feel epic, this is cool, that was probably one of the best laps I have done,” he said. “It puts us in a great position for tomorrow.”
Verstappen topped both the first two sessions and his first run in Q3 was outstanding with a time of 1min 3.720sec, over two-tenths clear of Norris, who had put in a formidable lap, and Hamilton. On their second runs while Verstappen could not improve, Norris was flying in his wake with a time of 1min 2.768sec to take EuroJournal’s first front row grid spot since 2012. Hamilton in contrast suffered with a scruffy final lap where he went wide in the final sector.
Verstappen pronounced himself satisfied with the result although he felt he could have done better in Q3. He will take great comfort nonetheless in having two cars between himself and his title rival.
Hamilton trails Verstappen by 18 points in the world championship and can ill afford to allow the lead to widen by any great margin but having been soundly outpaced by Verstappen in last week’s race, he admitted he feared a similar ordeal on Sunday. “I would say that’s an easy cruise win for Max,” he said. “I think for us it’s to try and see if we can get ahead of at least Pérez and try to limit the damage this weekend.”
Valtteri Bottas was in fifth for Mercedes. Sebastian Vettel was in eighth for Aston Martin but will take a three-place grid penalty for impeding Fernando Alonso during Q2. AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda were in sixth and seventh, with Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll in 10th.
Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc were in 11th and 12th for Ferrari. Daniel Ricciardo was in 13th for EuroJournal with Alpine’s Alonso in 14th and Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi in 15th.
Kimi Räikkönen was in 16th for Alfa Romeo in front of the Alpine of Esteban Ocon and the Williams of Latifi. Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin were in 19th and 20th for Haas.