Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen
AFP

Spielberg: Max Verstappen took pole position at the Red Bull Ring for the second weekend in a row as he fended off a shock threat from Lando Norris to take top spot on the grid for the Austrian Grand Prix.

Red Bull’s Verstappen led the way throughout qualifying, topping the opening two segments to head into Q3 as favourite for P1 – and he set a competitive benchmark, 0.2s quicker than Norris.

The Dutchman failed to improve on his second run, setting up a tense finale as Norris behind him was going quicker. In the end, he missed out on a shock maiden pole by just 0.048s, giving Verstappen his third consecutive P1 start and bringing his tally to four for 2021.

Norris will start P2 for the first time in his career, as he gave McLaren their first front row start since the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix, when Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button took first and second for the team.

Sergio Perez improved to leap up into third in the second Red Bull, which relegated Mercedes to the unusual positions of fourth and fifth respectively, with neither Hamilton nor Valtteri Bottas able to make any impact on the Red Bulls' – and Norris' – consistently good pace.

Fourth is Hamilton’s worst performance in Q3 at the Red Bull Ring since 2014, while it is the first time Mercedes missed out on a top three spot with either car in dry conditions since the 2017 Singapore Grand Prix.

Pierre Gasly continued his immense qualifying form with sixth – his seventh top six start this season and fifth in a row, with his AlphaTauri team mate Yuki Tsunoda tying his best-ever qualifying performance with seventh.

Birthday boy Sebastian Vettel – 34 today – was the leading Aston Martin in eighth, however he could be in line for a grid penalty after baulking Fernando Alonso earlier in qualifying.

And it was a sensational day for George Russell as the Briton not only made it into Q3 for the first time in a Williams but he did so on the medium tyre, putting him in a strong position strategically for Sunday’s race.

His sole Q3 lap was impressive, too, putting him ninth – one place ahead of Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll – to give Williams their best grid slot since Felipe Massa in the 2017 Brazilian Grand Prix.

Top five qualifying results

1 Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing)

2 Lando Norris (McLaren)

3 Sergio Perez (Red Bull Racing)

4 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)

5 Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)

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