Max Verstappen fastest in Styrian GP qualifying for third F1 pole of season

F1 Styrian pole Verstappen
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SPIELBERG, Austria — F1 championship leader Max Verstappen took pole position Saturday for the Styrian Grand Prix at Red Bull Ring.

The Red Bull driver became the first this weekend to complete a lap below 1 minute, 4 seconds as he timed 1:03.841 in Q3 to beat Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas by 0.194 seconds.

With Bottas getting a three-place grid penalty from a pit-lane incident in Friday’s practice, Verstappen will share the front row with defending champion Lewis Hamilton, who trailed his Mercedes teammate by 0.032 seconds in third.

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McLaren’s Lando Norris and Red Bull’s Sergio Perez will start from row two.

It’s Verstappen’s second consecutive Formula One pole and third of the season, compared to Hamilton’s two.

At the French GP last week, Verstappen completed a hat trick of pole, fastest lap, and victory.

Red Bull has won the last three races, while Hamilton is looking for a first triumph since winning the Spanish GP seven weeks ago.

Charles Leclerc had the seventh-fastest time after both Ferraris finished outside the top 10 in practice Friday. Leclerc earned pole position in two of the last three GPs.

McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo finished 14th and went out in Q2, a day after he was runner-up to Verstappen in the second practice.

Earlier Saturday, Hamilton timed 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 by 12 points in the season standings, was fastest in both practices Friday.

Hamilton also timed the quickest lap in Friday’s second practice but went too wide on a turn, making him one of many drivers who had lap times deleted for exceeding the track limit.

A day after getting a three-place grid penalty for spinning while leaving the Mercedes box, Bottas had another pitlane scare as he narrowly avoided Pierre Gasly, who overlooked the Finnish driver when leaving the AlphaTauri box.

With a track record of just under 1 minute, 3 seconds, the Red Bull Ring has the quickest lap times of the F1 season.

However, it is only the fifth-shortest track, behind Monaco, Netherlands, Mexico, and Brazil. It has three long straights and features the fewest corners – 10, and three of them are taken at full throttle.

It leaves drivers few opportunities to find time, usually making for a tight qualifying.