Qualy: Verstappen on sprint pole, Mercedes duo crash out

Jon Wilde
Max Verstappen's Red Bull on qualifying day for the Austrian GP. Red Bull Ring July 2022.

Max Verstappen's Red Bull on qualifying day for the Austrian Grand Prix. Red Bull Ring July 2022.

Lewis Hamilton and George Russell both crashed out of qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix as Max Verstappen took pole position for the season’s second sprint.

Looking set to challenge for a front-row start for the first time this season, Hamilton hit the wall on his first hot lap in Q3 and will start the sprint in ninth – after Sergio Perez had been dropped nine places to 13th by the stewards after the session.

Following the ensuing red-flag period for the Hamilton crash, Russell followed suit as he spun at the final corner and forced another stoppage.

With both Mercedes cars out of the picture, it left Red Bull and Ferrari in a customary 2022 battle for the leading positions – and it was Verstappen who prevailed by a fraction of a second with his very last attempt from Charles Leclerc.

Track limits were proving an issue for drivers and in Q1 last week’s winner Carlos Sainz had an early pace-setting lap time deleted for exceeding the boundaries – even though he protested over the team radio he had not done so.

Lance Stroll was another to fall foul of the same rule, likewise Verstappen at the final corner in preparing for a hot lap, and that meant with eight minutes remaining the World Champion had still not set a time.

That added an element of pressure for the Dutchman but he cleared the bar with ease by jumping to the top of the leaderboard, although immediately beaten by Leclerc and Sainz.

At the other end of the standings, a lap-time deletion for Alex Albon left him struggling to get out of Q1 but he made it through at his final attempt as some recent qualifying strugglers suffered another difficult afternoon.

For the third consecutive weekend, both Aston Martins fell at the first hurdle, Sebastian Vettel slowest of all, while Nicholas Latifi was joined by McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo and Zhou Guanyu, in his first competitive action since his horrifying crash at the start of the British Grand Prix.

“Man, that’s painful,” was Vettel’s reaction over the team radio.

At the start of Q2, Mercedes threw down the gauntlet by setting the first and third fastest times on the opening runs, Hamilton and Russell sandwiching Verstappen, continuing the impressive performance the seven-time former World Champion had produced on his way to third place at Silverstone.

Perez was the latest to have difficulties keeping within track limits, losing a lap for going beyond the white line at Turn 9, and that left him outside the all-important top 10 entering the final runs.

But the Red Bull thought he had made it through with a last-gasp effort – until the stewards later intervened – and that was bad news for 11th-placed Pierre Gasly, who exited along with his AlphaTauri team-mate Yuki Tsunoda and Albon.

Also eliminated were Valtteri Bottas, who will start Sunday’s grand prix from the back of the grid due to an engine penalty, and Lando Norris – the McLaren driver had an older engine fitted in his car and reported he was “scared to hit the brakes” as he veered off track on several occasions and had times deleted.

Hamilton backed out of his first Q3 run and when he went again, had Verstappen’s 1:05.092 as the provisional pole target – but again, he failed to set a time.

The Briton went into the wall at Turn 7, bringing out the red flags, apologising over the team radio for making such an uncharacteristic error.

“So sorry, guys, for wrecking the car,” he said, replays showing the Mercedes had slid sideways across the gravel and hit the barrier side-on.

Russell then increased the work needing to be done at Mercedes overnight and the hiatus meant the remaining eight drivers had one last shot at improving their times.

Leclerc did just that, grabbing provisional pole, but only until Verstappen came along and pipped him by 0.029sec – to the delight of the hordes of orange-clad fans who had taken great delight in Hamilton’s misfortune.

Qualifying classification

1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:04.984
2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 0.029s
3 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 0.082s
4 Sergio Perez Red Bull 0.420s
5 George Russell Mercedes 0.447s
6 Esteban Ocon Alpine 0.742s
7 Kevin Magnussen Haas 0.895s
8 Mick Schumacher Haas 1.027s
9 Fernando Alonso Alpine 1.119s
10 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 8.167s
11 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri +0.873 (Q2)
12 Alex Albon Williams +0.943
13 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo +1.032
14 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri +1.564
15 Lando Norris McLaren +20.560
16 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren +1.194 (Q1)
17 Lance Stroll Aston Martin +1.428
18 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo +1.482
19 Nicholas Latifi Williams +1.584
20 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin +1.664