F1 2021 Austrian Grand Prix Qualifying report – Max takes pole, but Lando in 2nd!
It was a close battle between Max Verstappen and the two Mercedes, but for the second weekend in a row they would have to fight it around the Red Bull ring.
Coming into qualifying it was still unclear who would take pole. Mercedes had shown some great pace in Friday quali sims, but Max topped the time sheets in FP3 this morning.
Let’s get straight into how qualifying unfolded!
The Max Verstappen fans were out in full force as qualifying got underway. The track temperature was scorching so it would be a true test to keep the tyres in a good operating window.
Traffic was a cause for concern as Mercedes got right onto the FIA to make sure no one would hold up their cars through turns 9 and 10. The Haas cars wasted no time and got their laps done early. There was no point wasting time as they knew they would be out in this session.
As expected it was Verstappen who set the initial pace, 0.25 seconds ahead of Hamilton in second place. Behind the Mercedes it was very close between Sainz, Norris and Perez. All drivers fighting for fourth place.
Aston Martin and AlphaTauri took a different approach, doing their first lot of laps on the Medium tyres. It worked very well for Aston Martin as Sebastian Vettel put his car in 11th after his first flying lap. AlphaTauri were more worried as Gasly had his lap time removed and Tsunoda could only do as well as 14th.
The surprise of the session was when Fernando Alonso rocketed up the standings and sat in 3rd place. An amazing performance given Ocon was in the danger zone after the first lot of runs.
It only got worse for Ocon as he failed to get out of the bottom five and will start the race in in 17th. Also out were both Haas cars, Latifi and Kimi Raikkonen. Dnaiel Ricciardo scraped through to Q2 by the skin of his teeth while Lando Norris was 2nd fastest.
Eliminated: Raikkonen (16th), Ocon (17th), Latifi (18th), Schumacher (19th), Mazepin (20th)
The cars emerged for Q2 and it was unsurprising to see that the top teams headed out on the medium tyres.
It felt as though I was playing the F1 game as all the cars came out at the same time. When Lewis was setting his first lap time, he was met with four cars at turn 9. Luckily for Lewis, they kept out of the way. But his lap time was still not good enough to top the time sheets.
His lap time wasn’t good enough for 2nd place either. Lando Norris put his McLaren in 2nd , Perez was in third and Sebastian Vettel was in third. Granted, he was on the soft tyres, but it was a mighty effort from the four-time world champion.
Aston Martin had shown great pace with Stroll also in the top 10 after the first runs. That pace was worrying for Ferrari who could only do as well as 11th and 12th on the Medium tyres.
Ferrari would not be deterred as they persevered with the medium tyres for their final run. But it would be for nought as they couldn’t improve on their positions. They were beaten by George Russell who managed to get his Williams on the top 10, and most importantly, it was on the medium tyres. A brilliant job by George.
Fernando Alonso was looking to replicate his Q1 pace, but he was held up at the final corner by Sebastian Vettel. Alonso was furious and it denied him a place in Q3. This would be taken to the stewards.
Eliminated: Giovinazzi (15th), Alonso (14th), Ricciardo (13th), Leclerc (12th), Sainz (11th).
It was now time for the shoot-out!
Max Verstappen had been the pace setter for every session so far and it was no different after the first runs in Q3. The two Mercedes cars could not keep up and they couldn’t even go faster than Lando Norris who did an amazing job to put his McLaren in 2nd place.
Perez was behind the Mercedes in 5th followed by Gasly in 6th, replicating his qualifying position from last weekend. Vettel was in 7th after the first runs and the Ferrari drivers would want to keep an eye on where he would end up as his likely penalty could promote them to the top 10.
It was going to be a tense final run as Mercedes needed it to be perfect. But it would not be Mercedes who would make this session interesting.
Lando Norris found some great pace to go purple in the first sector. Max wasn’t improving and Lando was chipping away as Max’s lap time bit by bit. In the end it wouldn’t be enough for the young Brit as he missed out by half a tenth of a second.
Perez jumped both Mercedes to round out the top 3. Hamilton could only get 4th place and Bottas would line up behind him in 5th.
But I have to take off my hat to George Russell who jumped Stroll right at the end to qualify 9th place. With the potential for Vettel getting a penalty, he could start in 8th. We will not be jinxing him on this website