Max Verstappen takes dominant sprint shootout pole at Austrian Grand Prix

Henry Valantine
Max Verstappen in the Austrian Grand Prix sprint shootout in 2023.

Max Verstappen in last year's Austrian Grand Prix sprint shootout.

Max Verstappen dominated the sprint shootout at the Austrian Grand Prix to start P1 for Saturday’s sprint later in the day.

The Red Bull driver will start first on the grid after qualifying almost half a second clear of team-mate Sergio Perez on the front row, all the more impressive given the Austrian Grand Prix offers the shortest lap time of the season.

Lando Norris followed up his impressive qualifying performance on Friday to take third, while it was a disappointing session for Mercedes after Lewis Hamilton was knocked out in SQ1 in 18th, and George Russell will start 15th after a hydraulic issue.

With rain having fallen heavily in Spielberg overnight and Formula 3 drivers having already driven in the rain on Saturday morning, the track was just about dry enough for the shootout to take place on dry tyres – though SQ1 took place with the drivers beginning on a mixture of slick and intermediate tyres.

Carlos Sainz was quickly back in the pits after reporting a brake by wire issue on his Ferrari, with his car seen smoking in his pit box and, with only 12 minutes on the clock in the first part of the session, it was unlikely he would be able to get out to set a lap.

Lap time deletions continued on the theme that was set on Friday, with multiple drivers seeing their times fall away after going beyond track limits.

Lingering dampness on kerbs and at a couple of points on track meant lap times were several seconds slower than they were in they were to begin with on Friday, but with the track declared wet, the mandatory medium tyre requirement in SQ1 was removed – so soft tyres were fitted on most of the cars through the session when it was dry enough.

Lap times continued to improve through SQ1 and Sainz was able to somehow get out for one final lap, while Charles Leclerc may be fearing a penalty for impeding a fast-approaching Oscar Piastri at Turn 9 – which will be investigated after the session.

Sainz overruled his team on being told to warm up for a flying lap, with the Spaniard opting to push from the off and putting in the fastest lap of anyone in an impressive effort from the Ferrari driver in SQ1.

At the other end, meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton was the one to fall foul of having his best lap time deleted, which would have been good enough for the top six.

Needing to improve on his final attempt, the seven-time World Champion hit traffic and could not improve his time, aborting his lap before even crossing the line – and he qualified 18th. recommends

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Onwards to the 10 minutes of SQ2 and the other Mercedes of George Russell was left rooted in the garage, with the Briton reporting a hydraulic issue over team radio. Mercedes worked hard to fix his car, but they confirmed he would not be able to take part as the issue required a change of steering rack.

The frantic nature of continually putting in lap times continued elsewhere, and it was Alex Albon, Pierre Gasly, Yuki Tsunoda and Nyck de Vries that would fall during SQ2, setting up the top 10 shootout which would take place over eight short minutes to decide the sprint grid for later on Saturday.

Verstappen was sat at the end of the pit lane waiting to get going on a brand new set of soft tyres, and he duly pumped in a 1:04.613 to lay down the gauntlet for the rest of the drivers to match in SQ3.

Most of the others did not have the luxury of a new set of softs on which to attack SQ3, with Sainz and Nico Hulkenberg using new mediums instead on their first runs.

Lando Norris was the one to get closest to Verstappen on his first run, albeit almost four tenths down – but the McLaren driver, who qualified fourth on Friday, still nudged clear of Sergio Perez in the sister Red Bull.

But it was Verstappen who would improve even further still, and Perez would jump Norris on his final attempt to make it an all Red Bull front row for the sprint on Saturday.

Norris and Hulkenberg will form the second row, with the Ferrari duo of Sainz and Leclerc to start fifth and sixth.

Sprint shootout grid: 2023 Austrian Grand Prix

1 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull 1:04.440
2 Sergio PEREZ Red Bull +0.493
3 Lando NORRIS McLaren +0.570
4 Nico HULKENBERG Haas +0.644
5 Carlos SAINZ Ferrari +0.696
6 Charles LECLERC Ferrari +0.805
7 Fernando ALONSO Aston Martin +0.818
8 Lance STROLL Aston Martin +0.907
9 Esteban OCON Alpine +0.926
10 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Haas +1.472
11 Alexander ALBON Williams 1:06.152
12 Pierre GASLY Alpine +0.208
13 Yuki TSUNODA AlphaTauri +0.217
14 Nyck DE VRIES AlphaTauri +0.441
15 George RUSSELL Mercedes NO TIME
16 ZHOU Guanyu Alfa Romeo 1:07.062
17 Oscar PIASTRI McLaren +0.044
18 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes +0.220
19 Valtteri BOTTAS Alfa Romeo +0.229
20 Logan SARGEANT Williams +0.364

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