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Formula 1 Austrian Grand Prix 2024

Verstappen 'on fire' to continue perfect Austrian weekend

Just a sublime performance from a driver at the very top of his game at present.

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To news overview © Red Bull Content Pool

Max Verstappen continued his perfect Austrian Grand Prix weekend by delivering a stunning qualifying performance around the Red Bull Ring.

Verstappen had beaten McLaren's Lando Norris in sprint qualifying on Friday by 0.093s at what is one of the shortest circuits on the F1 calendar. Twenty-four hours later he had no equal.

After claiming victory in the sprint, the three-time F1 champion then scored the 40th pole position of his F1 career, finishing an astonishing four-tenths of a second faster than Norris, who edged Mercedes' George Russell for second by 0.122s.

Verstappen described his RB20 as being "on fire" after Red Bull team principal Christian Horner had described his performance as "mighty".

However, 10 minutes after the session finished, the stewards called an investigation on Verstappen for 'driving unnecessarily slowly".

On his first run, Verstappen posted a scorching lap of 1:04.426s, 0.351s faster than Norris, with Russell third quickest, just under two-tenths of a second down on his fellow Briton.

The 26-year-old then improved further on his second, cementing pole position with a 1:04.314s, and finishing a staggering distance ahead of Norris.

Russell will be partnered on the second row by Ferrari's Carlos Sainz, with Lewis Hamilton fifth quickest, six-tenths of a second behind Verstappen. The seven-time F1 champion, however, is under investigation for an unsafe release as he ran over a jack as he left his garage ahead of his first run.

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc starts sixth, with Oscar Piastri seventh, that after his final flying lap of 1:04.786s - which would have been good enough for third - was deleted for exceeding track limits.

Sergio Perez, although making it into Q3, had no fresh sets of softs, and will start eighth ahead of Nico Hulkenberg, although the Haas driver faces two summons for failing to follow the race directors' instructions in Q1 and Q2 relating to incidents in the pit lane.

Alpine's Esteban Ocon, who was in the same situation as Perez on tyres in Q3, starts 10th.

Result Qualification - Austrian

# Driver Team Time Tyre
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Ricciardo edged out of top 10

Alpine duo Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly were the first to post times, with the former edging his team-mate by 0.075s with a time of 1:05.582s.

They were soon sandwiched by Leclerc and Sainz, the former ahead by 0.052s, and the latter two-tenths of a second slower than the Monégasque, and complaining of bouncing.

Verstappen was the next to post a time, and it proved to be the quickest of the weekend to that point with a 1:04.577s. At the end of the first runs, he was the only driver to break the 65-second mark, with Russell his closest challenger with a 1:05.068s.

Sainz managed to lower his time to 1:05.016s on his second run on the same set of tyres.

If Verstappen's first lap of this session was exceptional, his second was outstanding as he purpled all three sectors to lower his own mark to 1:04.469s, finishing just over half a second quicker than Sainz, with Russell and Hamilton third and fourth quickest.

With Verstappen out on his own, behind him just a quarter of a second separated Sainz to Ocon in 10th, the Frenchman scraping into Q3 by 0.015s to Daniel Ricciardo in his RB.

Haas' Kevin Magnussen will start 12th ahead of Gasly, followed by RB's Yuki Tsunoda and Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard was over two-tenths of a second slower than the Japanese driver.

Aston Martin misery continues

Verstappen was first out on track at the start of the 18-minute Q1, and he was naturally the first to set a time of 1:06.054s, but that was quickly beaten by Leclerc, Norris, Piastri, Tsunoda, and Sainz.

Hamilton and Russell bided their time as they were the last to leave the pit lane, and it was the latter who set the leading pace after the opening laps with a 1:05.614s.

On his second run, however, Verstappen was almost three-tenths of a second quicker than Russell, although he was soon deposed by Sainz by 0.073s, albeit due to the Spaniard running on a fresh rubber compared to a used set for the Dutchman. Sainz ultimately finished quickest.

Piastri also edged ahead of Verstappen to sit second. Verstappen and Russell were the only drivers who did not use new softs in the session.

With three minutes remaining, Hamilton was in the drop zone ahead of Aston Martin's Lance Stroll, Hulkenberg, Logan Sargeant in his Williams and Stake's Zhou Guanyu.

On a fresh set of softs, Hamilton moved himself up to sixth, and was eventually seventh, a concern in terms of overall pace given he was on new Pirellis.

It was a similar situation for Perez who was only 12th quickest on new tyres, with the Mexican avoiding another Q1 exit by less than two-tenths of a second.

Williams' Alex Albon was at the head of those knocked out, the Briton just 0.080s slower than 15th quickest Alonso, who was at least ahead of Stroll but a disastrous performance from Aston Martin, with the Canadian 17th.

At the rear of the field, Sargeant will line up 19th in between Stake duo Valtteri Bottas and Zhou.

The American was unable to repeat his sprint qualifying success over Albon, who maintained his perfect record over his team-mate since they were paired together at the start of last season, now stretching to 33 races. 

Overall, just 0.798s separated all 20 cars, the smallest margin in F1's history.

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