Reigning Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton secured pole position for the Styrian Grand Prix in a weather-affected qualifying at the Red Bull Ring.
With heavy rain having hit the Austrian circuit, forcing the shortening of the support Formula 3 race and the cancellation of F1’s third practice session, the start of qualifying was delayed by what would ultimately end up being 46 minutes.
The rain cleared up enough to finally get the first segment of qualifying underway, but with forecasts suggesting the break in rainfall was temporary – which meant the whole F1 grid queued up at the pitlane exit waiting for green light to kick off the session.
The Ferraris and Alfa Romeos won the race to get out of the pitlane first, yet as track conditions actually improved over the course of Q1 this was irrelevant, with almost every driver getting to log double-digit laps on Pirelli’s full wet tyres.
The Haas of Romain Grosjean was the sole exception, skating off into the gravel on the out-lap at Turn 4 and being called back into the pits with a suspected water pump issue that kept him sidelined for the rest of the session.
The second segment then proceeded uninterrupted, and though rain picked up again towards the end the track remained in good enough condition for Q3 to be held and to determine pole position.
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen queued up on pitlane exit more than three minutes before the start of the pole shoot-out, and led the session after the opening salvo of laps.
Yet the Red Bull man was surpassed by Mercedes duo Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas towards the halfway point of the session, with Hamilton entering the final four-minute stretch with an advantage of over three tenths over his team-mate.
A 1m20.489s from Verstappen briefly deposed Hamilton a couple of minutes later, but the reigning champion immediately responded with a trio of session-best sectors, posting a monster 1m19.702s.
And as Verstappen spun exiting Turn 9 on his last-ditch attempt to defeat Hamilton, the Mercedes driver’s pole was confirmed – although he subsequently fired in a further improvement to a 1m19.273s, which left him over a second clear of his rivals.
McLaren’s Carlos Sainz Jr was a standout third in the session, a few hundredths clear of a late-improving Bottas.
Esteban Ocon led the way for Renault in fifth, with Sainz’s team-mate Lando Norris in sixth.
Norris, however, will be forced to drop three positions on the grid due to a yellow flag infringement on Friday, and will therefore cede sixth place to Alex Albon, while also allowing AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly and Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo ahead.
It was another painful qualifying for Ferrari, with its sole Q3 representative Sebastian Vettel managing no better than 10th.
Austrian Grand Prix podium finisher Charles Leclerc was a tenth slower than team-mate Vettel in Q2, which proved the difference between Q3 and elimination – as conditions worsened in the final sector late on in the second segment to prevent further improvements.
This also left Lance Stroll on the outside, the Canadian repeatedly managing personal-best times in the first and second sectors but coming up short in the third to eventually end up 13th, behind Leclerc and the Williams of George Russell.
Russell had secured Williams’ first Q2 appearance since 2018, and outpaced Stroll by 0.006s for a spot on the sixth row.
AlphaTauri’s Daniil Kvyat will join Stroll on row seven, while Kevin Magnussen made up the finishing order in Q2 and will start 15th.
Despite having got off to an early start, the two Alfa Romeos of Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi were both eliminated in Q1 for the second weekend running.
Raikkonen came up two tenths short of advancing in 16th, while Giovinazzi’s hopes were dashed when he lost control of his his C39 going through Turn 10 in the closing minutes of the segment.
The Italian tapped the outside barrier with his rear wing, but managed to rejoin the track, only to be forced to stop the car at the side of the road on the very next lap.
This brought out a red flag that ended the session early and left Racing Point’s Sergio Perez trapped in 17th, the Friday morning pacesetter having been on course to improve but instead forced to accept a Q1 exit along with Raikkonen, the 18th-placed Williams of Nicholas Latifi, Giovinazzi and the absent Grosjean.
|2||Max Verstappen||Red Bull-Honda||1m18.297s||1m17.938s||1m20.489s|
|3||Carlos Sainz Jr.||McLaren-Renault||1m18.59s||1m18.836s||1m20.671s|
|7||Alex Albon||Red Bull-Honda||1m20.882s||1m19.014s||1m21.011s|
|13||Lance Stroll||Racing Point-Mercedes||1m19.697s||1m19.645s|
|16||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo-Ferrari||1m21.372s|
|17||Sergio Pérez||Racing Point-Mercedes||1m21.607s|
|19||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo-Ferrari||1m21.831s|