Verstappen on pole with Norris second – Asia Despatch

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Red Bull’s Max Verstappen took pole position at the Austrian Grand Prix with McLaren’s Lando Norris in a stunning second place.

Norris was just 0.048 seconds behind Verstappen, whose title rival Lewis Hamilton could manage only fourth behind Red Bull’s Sergio Perez.

And there was an outstanding performance from Norris’ fellow Briton George Russell.

The 23-year-old got his Williams into the final part of qualifying for the first time in three years of trying and will start ninth.

Russell made it into the top 10 shoot-out despite using the medium tyre in the second part of qualifying, so he can gain the strategic advantage of starting the race on it.

Russell beat both Ferraris, who were also on the medium tyre, Daniel Ricciardo’s McLaren, Fernando Alonso’s Alpine and Antonio Giovinazzi’s Alfa Romeo, all three of which were on the faster soft tyre.

However, Alonso would have beaten Russell and knocked him out of the top 10 had he not been badly blocked by Sebastian Vettel’s Alfa Romeo on his final lap in second qualifying.

The Spaniard was furious, swearing over the radio and frantically gesticulating at Vettel as they went down the pit straight afterwards.

Vettel, who qualified eighth, held up his hand to apologise to Alonso as they crossed the line and the incident will be investigated after qualifying. The four-time champion seems certain to be handed a grid penalty for impeding a rival.

Verstappen on top again

Verstappen continued where he left off after dominating the Styrian Grand Prix last weekend and was the man to beat throughout.

He was disappointed with his own performance in the final part of qualifying but still had more than enough to keep him clear of everyone else.

“Q3 was pretty bad,” Verstappen said. “I am of course happy to be first but not the way we got it. Something to look into but to be twice on pole here is nevertheless very good and hopefully we can finish it off tomorrow.

“Softer compounds compared to last week so it will be tough to manage them in the race but just try to focus on our own race and we will try to win it.

“It is never straight forward but we will see.”

Norris qualified fourth on this track last weekend but excelled himself on Saturday. He was on course to snatch pole from Verstappen for much of his final lap, until the McLaren’s lack of downforce compared to the Red Bull meant he dropped back fractionally in the final part of the lap.

Norris said: “I feel epic. It was cool. I guess after last race I wanted to do that one more step. I did two more. It’s nice, it puts us in a good position for tomorrow. Probably one of the best laps I’ve done.

“I don’t know how far I was off pole, bit gutted I didn’t get pole.”

More to follow

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