Verstappen takes Austrian sprint pole ahead of McLarens


Red Bull's Max Verstappen took pole position for Saturday's Austrian Grand Prix sprint race with the McLarens of Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri close behind.

The triple Formula One world champion watched rivals set the pace before producing a best lap of one minute 04.686 seconds, as the crowd roared in response, to leave Norris just 0.093 slower.

Friday's sprint qualifying session for the 100 km race replaced the usual second practice.

"It's great to be first here in front of, basically, my home fans and my home Grand Prix," said Verstappen, whose travelling army of Dutch fans turn the stands orange at Spielberg's Red Bull Ring.

"It's been a good day so far."

The pole was his eighth in sprint races, a format Verstappen has dominated since it was introduced in 2021.

"I'm happy, we started off the day well," said the 26-year-old, who was fastest in the sole practice session despite a sensor problem briefly halting his car.

Mercedes' George Russell joined Piastri on the second row with Ferrari's Carlos Sainz and Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton together on the third.

Mexican Sergio Perez starts a disappointing seventh for Red Bull with Alpine's Esteban Ocon eighth and team mate Pierre Gasly ninth.

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc will start 10th after failing to cross the line in time to get in a flying lap in the final phase.

"I don't know what happened. I was in the pit lane and I got the anti-stall then everything switched off," said the Ferrari driver.

Norris, second in the championship but a mighty 69 points behind Verstappen who has won seven of the 10 races so far, lived up to expectations that he would be the champion's closest rival.

"I never got quite comfortable probably until my final lap, so I'm happy with that," said the Briton.

"It's close as it has been for the whole year, so no difference, but that must have been a nice lap by Max and it's a good position for the race tomorrow."

Mercedes also expected to be competitive, even if Hamilton said his afternoon had been "pretty disastrous" and had not felt in the mix at all.

"It's usually not such an eventful race, so I think the focus will be mostly on getting a better qualifying tomorrow," added the seven-times world champion.

Qualifying for Sunday's Grand Prix follows the sprint on Saturday.

Haas had Kevin Magnussen qualify 11th and ahead of the Aston Martins of Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso.

Australian Daniel Ricciardo was again outqualified by RB team mate Yuki Tsunoda, with Williams' Logan Sargeant 15th and between the two.

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