Max Verstappen was delighted to take pole position for the Styrian Grand Prix on Saturday, with the Dutchman relatively comfortable in Q3 as his two best laps were good enough to take top spot.
The Red Bull Racing driver continued his fine form of 2021, with Verstappen the only driver to dip beneath the sixty-four second mark in Qualifying, his lap of 1:03.841 more than two tenths of a second ahead of the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team pairing of Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton.
Verstappen says Red Bull have made good gains in Qualifying in 2021, and the championship leaders form continued at the Red Bull Ring as he took his third pole position of the season.
“It is of course a great result to take the Team’s first pole position at our home track and I feel very good about that,” said Verstappen. “We made a big step forward in qualifying this year and although the car has been competitive and pretty easy to set-up all weekend we still made some good changes for qualifying.
“From my side, the first lap in Q3 felt pretty good. Around here you don’t have many corners but it is actually quite hard to nail the lap because of the braking up to Turn 3 and 4 where it is easy to lose a tenth if you make a tiny mistake.”
Verstappen believes Mercedes will come back fighting on Sunday, with their race pace and tyre management having been good during the weekend. But he has ambition to take his third win in four races and further extend his championship advantage over Hamilton.
“When I started driving in F1 this was always one of the tracks that I felt good at and as there aren’t many corners the driver can make a big difference, which I like,” said the Dutchman. “Some tracks are pretty straight forward on how you take corners but here there are a few options for that which makes it more enjoyable.
“I expect it will be super tight again tomorrow. We know Mercedes have a strong race car and they are pretty good on the tyres so it will be very close, which I think is also good for the fans and the way everyone likes it.”
“I’m a bit disappointed with qualifying today” – Sergio Pérez
Team-mate Sergio Pérez was disappointed with his own performance in Qualifying, even though he will start fourth on the grid after profiting from Bottas’ grid penalty.
The Mexican struggled initially in Q1 and was forced to run a second set of tyres in order to get into Q2, but after that he was able to easily get into Q3.
But with only one set of new soft tyres available, Pérez was unable to better fifth, 0.327 seconds down on team-mate Verstappen, although he moves up to row two once Bottas takes his three-place grid penalty for his pit lane spin on Friday.
“I’m a bit disappointed with qualifying today, especially Q1, as I think it really compromised our session,” said Pérez. “We had to use a second set of tyres for the second run in Q1 as I wasn’t totally happy with the balance on the first run.
“Then for my first lap in Q3 I was on used tyres and it was looking pretty good but when we went on to the new tyre it was a very complicated lap and I did not improve as much as I hoped.
“We just have to analyse what happened there on the first run and go from there, especially as the margins are extremely tight here and the midfield are also right up there.”
Pérez hopes his decision to start the race on the soft compound pays off on Sunday as he bids for his second victory of the season, having taken the win in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix earlier this month.
“We still have a very good strategy in place for tomorrow, starting on the softs, and there’s a long race ahead and still plenty to play for so I’m looking forward to it,” said the Mexican.
“I believe we can have a good solid race. Well done to Max today too, he’s done a great job.”