WATCH LIVE: Austrian GP Race Day; can Williams stop Mercedes?

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Just two weeks after Daniel Ricciardo brought Mercedes’ hopes of a perfect season to an end in Canada, Williams sprung another surprise on the Silver Arrows by locking out the front row of the grid for the Austrian Grand Prix.

With Felipe Massa on pole and Valtteri Bottas alongside him, the stage is set for a fascinating race at the Red Bull Ring this morning.

Coverage of the Austrian Grand Prix starts at 7:30am ET on NBCSN and Live Extra. CLICK HERE to watch via live stream.

Two mistakes by Lewis Hamilton in the final stage of qualifying meant that he failed to post a time, and will start ninth on the grid as a result. In a reverse of the incident at Monaco, his second faux pas – an off at turn two – brought out waved yellow flags, forcing teammate Nico Rosberg to back off from his lap. The German driver will start third on the grid.

Ferrari enjoyed a mixed result in qualifying with Fernando Alonso finishing fourth and Kimi Raikkonen in tenth, but for Red Bull, the Saturday of its home event was not an entirely happy one. Sebastian Vettel failed to make it through to Q3, and will start the race in 12th. Daniel Ricciardo salvaged some kind of result for the team in fifth, but after seeing Mercedes slip up again, the defending world champions will be disappointed not to have taken advantage.

With Williams on the front row and the Mercedes ready to charge from further back, we are poised for a brilliant grand prix. After so long away, Austria has found a way back into the heart of the sport with a wonderful event.

You can watch the Austrian Grand Prix live from 7:30am ET on NBCSN and Live Extra. Coverage is expected to continue until 10:30am.

To tune in via live stream, CLICK HERE.

Red Bull rising into the form expected when the season began

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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) Young “Mad Max” Verstappen had plenty to be angry about for the first half of the Formula One season. After his breakout season in 2016, this year had been little more than a rash of retirements, crashes and clashes with other drivers.

But a late burst over the last two races delivered his second career victory and a second-place. Those results have Red Bull rising and looking more like the fast and muscular team it was expected to be.

Verstappen and teammate Daniel Ricciardo now look primed to keep pushing for the front over the final four races of 2017, starting this week at the U.S. Grand Prix. Do that and the prospects for a 2018 title fight grow brighter.

“We’re definitely going the way we need to be going,” Ricciardo said. “If we start on the front foot, I genuinely believe we can fight for the title if we start closer. That’s what we’re aiming for.”

Verstappen’s win in Malaysia demonstrated a perfect marriage of the young Dutchman’s driving skill and his improving car when he beat Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton with a head-to-head pass early. He was on the podium again a week later in Japan. The champagne spray at both races was a tasty but dry reminder that Red Bull wanted – and expected – so much more this season.

While Ricciardo has been a workhorse with nine podiums and one victory, Verstappen’s season was crippled by reliability issues with his car or crashes.

“There were so many races this year when he was in a fantastic position to achieve big results,” team principal Christian Horner said this week. “Credit to him that at such a young age he hasn’t let frustration boil over … when it comes right for him, it’s going to come right in a big way. And that’s exactly what happened in Malaysia. He drove a great race there, with no issues.”

Some of the “issues” created internal tension.

The first lap of the Hungarian Grand Prix was a disaster for Red Bull. Verstappen tried to overtake Ricciardo and hit him, knocking Ricciardo out of the race while Verstappen finished fifth. Ricciardo lashed out at Verstappen as “immature” and criticized the “amateur” maneuver.

Verstappen said he can’t think about what happened early in the season.

“That frustration I put behind me,” Verstappen said. “It happened. You can’t change it anymore. You’re just happy that it’s going well again and we had some good results.”

Ricciardo has carried Red Bull to the podium time and again but his broad smile hasn’t beamed from the top spot since Azerbaijan in June. Despite his run of strong finishes, he’s stuck at fourth in the driver’s standings and needs a boost to overtake Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas for third.

The Circuit of the Americas has been good for both Red Bull drivers in the past. Ricciardo finished third here in 2014 and 2016. Verstappen had an attention-getting drive in 2015 when he finished fourth in his Toro Rosso after sloshing his way through the field on a wet track.

Verstappen had a wild race in 2016 when he challenged for the lead early, came in for a pit stop when the crew wasn’t ready and yelled to his garage: “I’m not here to finish fourth!” He didn’t finish at all when his car was knocked out with a gearbox problem on lap 32.

Verstappen was 17 when he joined the F1 grid as the youngest driver in series history and he still jokes about his age. Austin is known for its live music and nightlife, but he’s limited as to how much he can party away from the track.

“I’m only 20. I can’t drink,” Verstappen said. “If I’m on the podium (Sunday) I won’t care.”