Austrian F1 GP: Max Verstappen takes pole as Mercedes suffers double whammy

Max Verstappen clinched Austrian Grand Prix pole position with a huge lap here. But his mastery of the circuit contrasted sharply with the poor performance of the Mercedes drivers, Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, who ended the day with their cars in the barriers.

Mercedes faces a long weekend after enduring a disastrous afternoon at Spielberg. Hamilton crashed out in the third quarter taking a major impact and soon after Russell did the same. Luckily, neither was injured after unusual errors. Hamilton was ninth and Russell fourth. A setback for the team who hoped to build on the improvement shown during the British GP.

Hamilton was inconsolable and unable to explain how he lost the car. “I’m incredibly disappointed with myself at the end of the day,” he said. “I’m so sorry for the team, everyone worked so hard to put this car together and I never like to damage it or bring it back damaged. We were fighting for a top three finish I think and I didn’t I just lost the rear in turn seven and that was it.

With the weekend hosting the sprint race format on Saturday, which will set the grid for Sunday’s GP, they have the chance to come back and gain places as their car looked competitive but a long night awaits the Mercedes mechanics .

Verstappen, in superb form in his team’s home Grand Prix, rode a superb final race that ensured he started at the front of the grid for the sprint race. The Red Bull driver beat the Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz in second and third. In a fiercely competitive session, the top three were separated by just eight hundredths of a second. Red Bull’s Sergio Pérez had taken fourth place but having overshot track limits on his hot lap in Q2, his times in Q3 were scrapped and he was demoted to 13th, displacing other drivers on the lap. gate.

Verstappen set the pace in his first hot race in Q3 with a time of 1min 5.092secs. However, behind him Hamilton had a shock. Going into turn seven he lost the rear end, tried to correct but couldn’t hold it. It drove off and suffered a side impact which may have damaged its gearbox requiring replacement.

Part of the fiercely partisan Dutch contingent in the crowd cheered their misfortune and, when the session restarted, Russell quickly followed Hamilton into the barriers. He came in hot at turn 10, spun and slid back.

He too regretted what he saw as pilot error in pushing too hard. “I do not want to say [it was] a lucky escape. There is nothing lucky or fortunate in making such a mistake,” he said. “I could have been fourth. I was a tenth on my knees and I went for it. I could have been third, but we have to see how much damage is done, so sorry for the team and the garage.

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Red-flagged again, the final runs were a tense one-lap shootout and Leclerc only had the advantage for Verstappen to pull out a powerful final sector, particularly the final two corners, to set a time of 1min 4.984, two hundredths on the Ferrari.

Kevin Magnussen and Mick Schumacher were sixth and seventh for Haas. Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso were fifth and eighth for Alpine and Pierre Gasly tenth for AlphaTauri.

Valtteri Bottas finished 12th where he will start the sprint race. However, having taken a new engine, the resulting penalties mean he will start Sunday’s GP from the back of the grid. Yuki Tsunoda was 14th for AlphaTauri. Alex Albon finished 11th for Williams and Lando Norris 15th for McLaren.

Daniel Ricciardo was 16th for McLaren. Guanyu Zhou was 18th for Alfa Romeo, his first time in a competitive session since suffering a huge crash at Silverstone last week. Nicholas Latifi was 19th for Williams. Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll in 17th and 20th for Aston Martin.

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