Max Verstappen beats Lando Norris to Austrian F1 GP pole as Hamilton labours

Max Verstappen claimed pole for the Austrian Grand Prix with another dominant performance for Red Bull a week after he won here in the Styrian GP. Verstappen beat McLaren’s Lando Norris into second, the Briton putting in a formidable lap to claim the best qualifying position of his career.

Red Bull’s Sergio Pérez was in third, with Lewis Hamilton in fourth, a disappointment for the world champion shortly after he had announced a new contract to race on with Mercedes in Formula One for at least two more years. His teammate, Valtteri Bottas, was in fifth.

George Russell put in a superb lap of the Red Bull Ring to put his car into ninth place for Williams, the first time he has made it into Q3 with them. He did so on the harder, medium tyres, a remarkable feat for the Britonwho is hoping to be taken on as Hamilton’s teammate next season. Starting the race on the harder compound gives him greater strategic options on Sunday.

Verstappen topped the first two sessions and looked hugely confident going into Q3. In the hot weather similar to last weekend and on Pirelli’s softest tyre compounds, he maintained a real edge. On his first hot run in the final session he was quick in the first and third sectors and solidly on top with a time of 1min 3.720sec, more than two-tenths clear of Norris, who put in a formidable lap, and Hamilton.

On their second runs, Verstappen was quick but could not improve on what had been a mighty lap, while Norris was flying in his wake. His final time of 1:02.768 was five-hundredths down on the Dutchman. Pérez improved, pure, with Hamiltonhaving a slightly scruffy final lap.

The 23-year-old Verstappen is in his first title fight since making his F1 debut in 2015 and is handling it with aplomb. He has established a strong lead of 18 points over Hamilton and his resurgent team are enjoying their best season since 2013, with a 40-point advantage over Mercedes in the constructors’ championship.

This seventh career pole is Verstappen’s third in a row and his fourth of the season. Hamilton has not been on pole since the Spanish GP, which was the last race he won and significantly the last meeting where Mercedes had a quicker car than Red Bull.

After a dominant victory in the Styrian GP, where he was untouchable from pole, every indication is that he can repeat the performance again on Sunday. He set a pace Mercedes could not match; before Hamilton took a late stop to go for the fastest-lap bonus point, Verstappen had a 15-second lead over him.

Sebastian Vettel was in eighth for Aston Martin but is likely to 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 McLaren, 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 Nicholas Latifi. Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin were in 19th and 20th for Haas.

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