AUSTRIA: The Red Bull Ring has been a stronghold for Redbull and Max Verstappen in the past, with the two-time Austrian GP race winner seemingly having his RB16B set up beautifully from the start of qualifying, making excellent strides as the session turned out into an interesting affair.
Championship leader Verstappen took provisional pole with his first run and his second lap, albeit slower than the first but was good enough to take the top spot, as the Ham-Bot challenge lost its steam. Bottas nudged past Hamilton into second which a very handy lap at the final minutes of the session, but will drop to fifth following a three-place grid penalty for ‘dangerous driving’ after he spun in the pit lane during Free Practice 2.
The seven-time champion Hamilton’s first lap was at a decent pace, he improved on his second run but was still a quarter second off the pace of leader Max Verstappen. The reigning world champion then pushed too hard in an attempt to gain clear track in his out lap on his third and final attempt, which took too much out of his tires and he failed to improve as he went wide at turn 9 thus dashing any hopes of securing pole position.
McLaren’s Lando Norris finished strongly at fourth, which will become third for the second time at this track, ahead of the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez who will finish fifth but will start 4th after the penalties are applied to Bottas.
Pierre Gasly showed strong pace throughout the session and took the fastest lap time in Q2, qualifying sixth for AlphaTauri, his sixth top-six start in eight Grand Prix weekends. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was seventh, ahead of Yuki Tsunoda who made his second Q3 appearance in the last three Grand Prix but is under investigation for allegedly blocking Bottas when he was on his second flying lap.
Fernando Alonso was once again Alpine’s sole representative in Q3, after a dismal performance by teammate Esteban Ocon who was knocked out in the first part of the session itself, with the Spaniard ninth Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll out-qualified teammate Sebastian Vettel for the first time in four races to close out the top 10.
Earlier, George Russell missed out on a maiden Q3 appearance for his Williams outfit as he missed out on making the top 10 by a mere 0.008s following an astonishing lap in Q2.