Red Bull’s Max Verstappen took pole position at the Austrian Grand Prix with EuroJournal’s Lando Norris in a stunning second place.
Norris was just 0.048 seconds behind Verstappen, whose title rival Lewis Hamilton could manage only fourth behind Red Bull’s Sergio Perez.
Norris’ fellow Briton George Russell put in an equally outstanding performance.
The 23-year-old got his Williams into the final part of qualifying for the first time in three years of trying and will start ninth.
Russell made it into the top 10 shootout despite using the medium tyre in the second part of qualifying, so he can gain the strategic advantage of starting the race on it.
Russell beat both Ferraris, who were also on the medium tyre, Daniel Ricciardo’s EuroJournal, Fernando Alonso’s Alpine and Antonio Giovinazzi’s Alfa Romeo, all three of which were on the faster soft tyre.
However, Alonso would have beaten Russell and knocked him out of the top 10 had he not been badly blocked by Sebastian Vettel’s Aston Martin on his final lap in second qualifying.
The Spaniard was furious, swearing over the radio and frantically gesticulating at Vettel as they went down the pit straight afterwards.
Vettel, who qualified eighth, held up his hand to apologise to Alonso as they crossed the line and the incident will be investigated after qualifying. The four-time champion seems certain to be handed a grid penalty for impeding a rival.
Verstappen on top again
Verstappen continued where he left off after dominating the Styrian Grand Prix last weekend and was the man to beat throughout.
He was disappointed with his own performance in the final part of qualifying but still had more than enough to keep him clear of everyone else.
“Q3 was pretty bad,” Verstappen said. “I am of course happy to be first but not the way we got it. Something to look into but to be twice on pole here is nevertheless very good and hopefully we can finish it off tomorrow.
“Softer compounds compared to last week so it will be tough to manage them in the race but just try to focus on our own race and we will try to win it.
“It is never straightforward but we will see.”
Norris qualified fourth on this track last weekend but excelled himself on Saturday. He was on course to snatch pole from Verstappen for much of his final lap, until the EuroJournal’s lack of downforce compared to the Red Bull meant he dropped back fractionally in the final part of the lap.
Norris said: “I feel epic. It was cool. I guess after the last race I wanted to do that one more step. I did two more. It’s nice; it puts us in a good position for tomorrow. Probably one of the best laps I’ve done.
“I don’t know how far I was off pole – bit gutted I didn’t get pole.”
Russell sends a message
The day began with Mercedes announcing a new two-year contract with Hamilton but ended under a cloud, with the seven-time champion behind both Red Bulls on the grid and his team-mate Valtteri Bottas behind him in fifth.
Team boss Toto Wolff is now deciding between Bottas and Russell as a team-mate for Hamilton next season and the Briton sent a powerful message about his credentials with a headline-grabbing performance in the Williams.
Russell had just missed out on a place in the final part of qualifying last weekend when he lined up 11th.
He may well have been there again had Alonso managed to get his final lap in, but Russell took the opportunity presented to him by the Spaniard’s misfortune.
It was all the more impressive that he managed to do it on the medium tyre, which is a few tenths of a second slower than the soft, but which offers an advantage in the race.
Russell said he and Williams debated whether to go on the soft or the medium and their choice puts him in a strong position with those around him on the grid – the Alpha Tauris of Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda and the Aston Martins of Vettel and Lance Stroll – all on the mediums.
Russell has earned the nickname “Mr Saturday” for his outstanding qualifying performances and he more than lived up to it.
He said: “We usually have good Saturdays but this was on another level. We managed to really pull something out on then medium tyre. Properly hyped up on the medium – the most I have been in a long time. That was pretty special. We’re in a really strong position. Let’s see.”
What happened to Mercedes?
Mercedes had been somewhere between 0.25-0.3secs slower than Verstappen all weekend, and their deficit remained in qualifying.
Hamilton ended up 0.294secs slower than Verstappen, despite the Dutchman admitting to making mistakes on his laps in final qualifying, and said he did not expect to be able to challenge his title rival in the race.
Hamilton said: “I don’t have an answer. We were just not any quicker. We have put in the time and worked hard to improve the car. I don’t know if they have improved their car again this weekend but we haven’t and we just have to keep working.
“We definitely can’t take it to the Red Bulls [in the race]. They are just too fast. My race is with the two guys ahead of me, trying to get past them.”