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Austria Grand Prix Sprint Qualifying: Verstappen returns to business as usual, Norris not far behind

Written by Meghana Sree


After four rounds, the Sprint format is back with our visit to Austria’s Red Bull Ring in Spielberg. An eventful practice session preceded the Sprint Shootout, and coming into this round of qualifying, it was clear that pole was anyone’s for the taking. 


Sprint Q1 (SQ1) - A Slow Start


Things were off to a dull start, and with over a minute ticked down, the track was bare of action. Eventually, cars started to trickle onto the track on the mandated medium tyres, with eager crowds looking on for the third Sprint qualifying session of 2024.


Gasps echoed from the crowds as Lewis Hamilton very nearly sent it off track into the newly added gravel traps, but he managed to reign it in and had to abandon his lap.


Max Verstappen then set the pace with four minutes to go, delivering a 1:05.690, just as Zhou Guanyu decided to test the gravel too. 


With two minutes to go, Alonso, Albon, and Ricciardo found themselves in the elimination zone, joined by Hamilton and Guanyu who were yet to set lap times owing to their excursions to the gravel.


As the final lap times were being slotted in, a momentary yellow flag popped up as Yuki Tsunoda became yet another driver to cross the white line into the gravel.


With Fernando Alonso and both Alpines delivering laps in the nick of time, Pierre Gasly knocking out Daniel Ricciardo, all eyes were on the Williams. Logan Sargeant gave people something to talk about after managing to outqualify his teammate on pure pace, making him the only Williams to secure a spot for SQ2.


SQ1 Exits

Daniel Ricciardo 

Nico Hulkenberg

Valtteri Bottas

Alex Albon

Zhou Guanyu


Sprint Q2 (SQ2) - Delivering Under Pressure


This time, cars hurried onto the track for the second part of the Sprint shootout, still on medium tyres. 


The Red Bulls immediately set their lap times ahead of everyone in the field, Sergio Perez four tenths behind Verstappen in first, with 1:05.186. Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris then split the pair, but soon after, George Russell and Oscar Piastri responded by taking their respective spots behind Verstappen, showing just how tight the competition was getting.


Charles Leclerc then kicked up some dust, becoming another of the many to find the gravel today.


With three minutes to go and seven of 15 drivers yet to set a lap time, the track action was beginning to heat up. Kevin Magnussesen responded to the challenge by setting the fastest first sector of anyone so far that session, but his efforts were in vain as he failed to break into the top ten.


Sargeant had to settle for 15th after a track limits violation, and the session ended with both Aston Martins failing to make it to the next stage.


SQ2 Exits

Kevin Magnussen

Lance Stroll

Fernando Alonso

Yuki Tsunoda

Logan Sargeant


Sprint Q3 (SQ3) - An Unsurprising End


With the usual likes of Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari, and Mercedes making it to SQ3, the Alpines now regularly joining the frontrunners, spectators were expectant of a tense battle.


The soft tyres were the order of the session, and as time was running out, it all came down to how much each driver was willing to risk to deliver a rapid lap while fighting to keep it within the white lines.


But with just four minutes to go, the track was frustratingly devoid of cars. A dramatic one-lap shootout seemed inevitable.


Under two minutes left, and the cars finally decided to get back on track, but it was more misfortune for Leclerc in the pitlane, who came to a stop after a problem on his car. Though it was resolved soon, it meant that his push lap was compromised, and the Ferrari driver saw the chequered flag without setting a time.


Out on track, Hamilton was the first to set a time, without the benefit of a tow, and as each driver crossed the line, a McLaren 1-2 seemed within reach but Verstappen swiftly dashed any hopes of a Papaya on pole by setting a rapid 1:04.686, just 0.093s ahead of Norris. 


With yet another victorious finish at the top, Verstappen made it clear to those watching that even though his team’s internal conflicts were splashed on front pages, he was here to do one job with razor-sharp focus  – be the man on top.


Sprint Race Starting Grid - Sprint Qualifying Results


1st - Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 

2nd - Lando Norris (McLaren)

3rd - Oscar Piastri (McLaren)

4th - George Russell (Mercedes)

5th - Carlos Sainz (Ferrari)

6th - Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)

7th - Sergio Perez (Red Bull)

8th - Esteban Ocon (Alpine)

9th - Pierre Gasly (Alpine)

10th - Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)

11th - Kevin Magnussen (Haas)

12th - Lance Stroll (Aston Martin)

13th - Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin)

14th - Yuki Tsunoda (RB)

15th - Logan Sargeant (Williams)

16th - Daniel Ricciardo (RB)

17th - Nico Hulkenberg (Haas)

18th - Valtteri Bottas (Sauber)

19th - Alex Albon (Williams)

20th - Zhou Guanyu (Sauber)


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