Formula One Championship leader Max Verstappen has kept his momentum at rivals Louis Hamilton by taking a pole position for the Styrian Grand Prix on Saturday.
Verstappen became the first driver this weekend to complete a lap of less than 1 minute, 4 seconds, setting a time of 1: 03.841 in his Red Bull in Q3 to beat Mercedes driver Valteri Botas with .194.
After Botas received a three-place penalty net from a pitlane incident in training on Friday, Verstappen will share the front row with Hamilton. The defending champion lags behind his Mercedes teammate by .032 in third place.
McLaren’s Lando Norris and Red Bull’s Sergio Perez will start second.
“It was a very good weekend,” Verstappen said. “Again in qualifying, the car was really good for driving. I am extremely happy to be here at home.
The Dutch pilot called his fastest lap “not too bad”.
“It’s definitely a small track, but it’s really hard to get a good lap out of it,” he said. “I don’t think the first lap in Q3 was bad, it’s never perfect, but it’s good enough.”
The tour brought Verstappen its second consecutive pole and third of the season, compared to Hamilton’s two. Both drivers have won three races this season.
At the French GP last week, Verstappen finished a hat-trick with a pole, fastest lap and victory when he overtook Hamilton in the penultimate lap.
“It’s never easy, but it’s good for racing,” Verstappen said. “I’m sure it will be very crowded again tomorrow, so hopefully it will be as interesting again as in France.”
Red Bull have won the last three races, while Hamilton is looking for its first triumph since winning the Spanish GP seven weeks ago.
Verstappen praised Hamilton.
“First, congratulations to Max, he was so fast this weekend,” said Hamilton, who is chasing a record eighth Formula One title this season.
However, Red Bull’s dominance left him in doubt about his chances in the race.
“They usually had a quarter of a second for us all weekend. It will be interesting to see if we can manage it. “I don’t think we have the raw pace to get ahead of them, that’s for sure,” Hamilton said.
“We gave him absolutely everything. It wasn’t the greatest of the sessions, but we’re still in the front row. I did everything I could, and we’ll start fighting tomorrow.”
Charles Leclerc had the seventh fastest time after both Ferraris finished out of the top 10 in practice on Friday. Leclerc has won a field position in two of the last three GPs.
McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo finished 14th and came out in Q2, a day after he was Verstappen’s runner-up in the second practice.
Earlier on Saturday, Hamilton set the fastest lap in the third and final practice, as he was just over two-tenths of a second faster than Verstappen.
Verstappen, who leads Hamilton with 12 points in the standings for the season, was the fastest in both training sessions on Friday.
Hamilton also set the fastest lap in Friday’s second practice, but went too wide on a turn, making him one of many pilots whose lap times were cleared to exceed the track limit.
A day after receiving a three-turn penalty while leaving the Mercedes box, Botas again frightened the Pitlain as he narrowly escaped Pierre Gasley, who ignored the Finnish driver as he left the AlphaTauri box.
With a record of just under 1 minute and 3 seconds, the Red Bull Ring has the fastest laps of the F1 season.
However, this is only the fifth shortest track after Monaco, the Netherlands, Mexico and Brazil. It has three long lines and has at least angles – 10, three of which are taken at full throttle.
This leaves drivers with little opportunity to find time, usually creating narrow qualifications.