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

F1 Styrian pole Verstappen
Mark Thompson/Getty Images
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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.

Meyer Shank Racing wins Petit Le Mans to take final DPi championship in dramatic finale

Petit Le Mans championship
IMSA
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Meyer Shank Racing outdueled Wayne Taylor Racing to win the Petit Le Mans and clinch the championship in a thrilling final race for the DPi division.

Tom Blomqvist, who started from the pole position, drove the No. 60 Acura ARX-05 to a 4.369-second victory over Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac.

“That was incredible,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports’ Matt Yocum. “I’ve never dug so deep in my life. The adrenaline. I did that for the guys. I was so motivated to win this thing this weekend. But I’ve got to thank everyone on the whole team.”

With co-drivers Oliver Jarvis and Helio Castroneves, Blomqvist helped MSR bookend its season-opening victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona by winning Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale at Michelin Road Atlanta.

In between those two victories, the No. 60 earned five runner-up finishes to stay in the thick of the championship hunt and trail WTR’s No. 10 Acura by 14 points entering Saturday’s race.

WTR’s Filipe Albuquerque had a lead of more than 10 seconds over Blomqvist with less than 50 minutes remaining in the 10-hour race.

But a Turn 1 crash between the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillacs brought out a yellow that sent both Acuras into the pits from the top two positions.

Though he entered in second, Blomqvist barely beat Albuquerque out of the pits, and he held the lead for the final 45 minutes.

Blomqvist said he gained the lead because of a shorter fuel fill after he had worked on being efficient in the second-to-last stint.

“The team asked a big job of me with the fuel; I had a big fuel number to hit,” Blomqvist said. “We knew that was probably our only chance. The yellow came at the right time and obviously we had a bit less fuel to fill up, so I was able to jump him and then it was just a matter of going gung-ho and not leaving anything on the line. And obviously, the opposition had to try too hard to make it work. I’m so thankful.”

Albuquerque closed within a few car lengths of Blomqvist with 14 minutes remaining, but he damaged his suspension because of contact with a GT car in Turn 1.

It’s the first prototype championship for Meyer Shank Racing, which also won the 2021 Indy 500 with Castroneves.

“We’ve had in the last four years, three championships for Acura, the Indy 500 win and the Rolex 24, it doesn’t get any better,” team co-owner Mike Shank told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee.

It’s the third consecutive runner-up finish in the points standings for Wayne Taylor Racing, which won the first Daytona Prototype international championship in 2017. The premier category will be rebranded as the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class with the LMDh cars that will establish a bridge to racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Kamui Kobayashi finished third in the No. 48 Cadillac of Action Express that also includes Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller.

The podium showing marked Johnson’s last scheduled race in IMSA’s top prototype division. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has raced in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac lineup as the Action Express entry has run the Endurance Cup races.

Johnson said a lack of inventory will preclude him having a 2023 ride in the top category. But he still is hopeful of racing the Garage 56 Next Gen Camaro in next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and possibly running in a lower class for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I’d love to be at Le Mans next year,” Johnson told NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch after his final stint Saturday. “I’d love to be at the Rolex 24. The series is going through a shake-up with the reconfiguration of the rules and classes, so I don’t have anything locked down yet, but I’m so thankful for this experience with Action. The support Ally has given us, Mr. Hendrick, Chad Knaus, all of Hendrick Motorsports. It’s been a fun two years, and I certainly hope I’m on the grid again next year.”