Leclerc Dominates in Austrian Qualifying to Secure Second Career Pole

by Paul Hensby

Charles Leclerc stormed to his second career pole position with a new track record at the Red Bull Ring on Saturday, with the Scuderia Ferrari driver in a class of his own throughout the one-hour session in Austria.

Leclerc’s lap of 1:03.003 was more than enough to take top spot, with his second fastest time of 1:03.208 also better than anyone else could manage in Q3.

Joining Leclerc on the front row will be Lewis Hamilton in the leading of the two Mercedes AMG Motorsport cars, although the stewards at the Red Bull Ring noted an incident between Hamilton and Alfa Romeo Racing’s Kimi Räikkönen in Q1 as the latter felt the former inhibited his lap as they ran through turn three.

Hamilton’s best lap was 0.259 seconds off the best of Leclerc, while Max Verstappen was third fastest for Red Bull Racing to the delight of the many Dutch fans at the track, although he was 0.436 seconds off the pole time.

Valtteri Bottas, twice a pole sitter at the Red Bull Ring in 2017 and 2018, could only manage fourth on the grid this time around in the second Mercedes, while Kevin Magnussen was an excellent fifth for the Haas F1 Team, although the Dane has a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox penalty to be applied, meaning he will start tenth on the grid.

Lando Norris will move up to fifth as a result of Magnussen’s penalty, with the McLaren F1 Team racer enjoying another impressive performance on the back of a third row start in the French Grand Prix just seven days ago, while Räikkönen and Alfa Romeo team-mate Antonio Giovinazzi will line up sixth and seventh, the latter with his best chance yet of breaking into the points for the first time on Sunday.

Pierre Gasly appeared to have similar pace to team-mate Verstappen in the early sessions of Qualifying, but the Frenchman could not continue that into Q3 and will start eighth on the grid.

Sebastian Vettel’s Q3 was over before it began as his engineers worked manically on an issue on the side of his car.  Overseen by a FIA delegate, the team removed the side pod and looked for the source of the issue.  The team worked hard but it was apparent that it was not fixable in the time available, and while team-mate Leclerc stormed to his second pole position of the season, the German will start at best ninth on the grid.

Leclerc and Vettel will both start the race on the soft tyre, while Hamilton, Bottas and Verstappen will be the only drivers inside the top ten to begin on the medium compound.

Romain Grosjean broke a front wing early in Q2 after hitting a kerb exiting the final turn that required the Frenchman to pit for a replacement, but the Haas driver was unable to make it through to Q3, missing out by 0.024 seconds to his team-mate Magnussen.

Magnussen might find himself in trouble after compromising Daniel Ricciardo’s lap as he recovered from going off track on his final quick lap.  The Haas driver had run wide and into the edge of the gravel trap heading into turn four, ending his chance of improving his time and costing Norris an opportunity to improve as he was close to the Dane when the mistake happened.

Both Magnussen and Norris slowed as they approached turn five, with Ricciardo finding himself unable to maintain his push to get out of Q2, with the Australian down in fourteenth at the chequered flag.

Magnussen already knew he would be dropping five places on the grid for Sunday’s race thanks to his team giving him a new gearbox for this weekend.

Nico Hülkenberg was twelfth fastest in the second Renault ahead of Alexander Albon for Scuderia Toro Rosso, with Ricciardo and Carlos Sainz Jr. completing the top fifteen, the McLaren F1 Team racer not setting a representative time as he knew he would be starting at the back of the field on Sunday, alongside Albon, in any case thanks to his engine change penalty.

Sergio Pérez was the first casualty out of Q1, the Racing Point F1 Team racer just ahead of team-mate Lance Stroll who continues to seek his first Q2 appearance of the season, while Daniil Kvyat was livid after seeing his final fast lap ruined by traffic at the penultimate turn.

Kvyat was approaching at speed into the final sector only to come across three slow cars seeking a gap ahead of their own flying lap.  The Williams Racing machine of George Russell was the main culprit, the Briton forcing the Russian to take avoiding action around the outside of the turn, with the time lost costing him a chance of joining team-mate Albon inside the top fifteen.

Russell was also eliminated in nineteenth but will be investigated after the session for the incident, while his team-mate Robert Kubica completed the field, the Pole continuing to struggle in comparison to Russell, who now leads the Qualifying battle by nine races to nil.

Both Mercedes drivers were forced to do a second run in the opening phase as they slipped down the order, with their additional runs seeing Hamilton end second and Bottas third.  Bottas slipped as low as twelfth as track evolution saw times tumbled, but the second laps were enough for both Mercedes to advance. 

Verstappen set the fastest time of the opening segment ahead of the two Mercedes drivers and the two Ferrari drivers, both of whom got through the session without needing the red-banded soft tyre.  Ultimately it will be Leclerc who starts up front, but can he convert his second pole into a maiden win on a track he’s impressed on in both the GP3 Series and FIA Formula 2 during his junior career.

Charles Leclerc (centre) took pole position in Austria ahead of Lewis Hamilton (left) and Max Verstappen – Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd

Red Bull Ring Qualifying Result

Pos.No.DriverNat.TeamQ1 TimeQ2 TimeQ3 Time
116Charles LeclercMONScuderia Ferrari1:04.1381:03.3781:03.003
244Lewis HamiltonGBRMercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport1:03.8181:03.8031:03.262
333Max VerstappenNEDAston Martin Red Bull Racing1:04.8071:03.8351:03.439
477Valtteri BottasFINMercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport1:04.0841:03.8631:03.537
520Kevin MagnussenDENRich Energy Haas F1 Team1:04.7781:04.4661:04.072
64Lando NorrisGBRMcLaren F1 Team1:04.3611:04.2111:04.099
77Kimi RaikkonenFINAlfa Romeo Racing1:04.6151:04.0561:04.166
899Antonio GiovinazziITAAlfa Romeo Racing1:04.4501:04.1941:04.179
910Pierre GaslyFRAAston Martin Red Bull Racing1:04.4121:03.9881:04.199
105Sebastian VettelGERScuderia Ferrari1:04.3401:03.667No Time
117Romain GrosjeanFRARich Energy Haas F1 Team1:04.5521:04.490
1227Nico HulkenbergGERRenault F1 Team1:04.7331:04.516
1323Alexander AlbonTHARed Bull Toro Rosso Honda1:04.7081:04.665
143Daniel RicciardoAUSRenault F1 Team1:04.6471:04.790
1555Carlos Sainz Jr.ESPMcLaren F1 Team1:04.4531:13.601
1611Sergio PerezMEXSportPesa Racing Point F1 Team1:04.789
1718Lance StrollCANSportPesa Racing Point F1 Team1:04.832
1826Daniil KvyatRUSRed Bull Toro Rosso Honda1:05.324
1963George RussellGBRROKiT Williams Racing1:05.904
2088Robert KubicaPOLROKiT Williams Racing1:06.206

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