In a season where Lewis Hamilton said, right at the start that the Red Bull were the quickest runners on the grid, it can be seen why the seven-time world champion, and a legend of the sport wasn’t bluffing, nor was he off the mark. As Max Verstappen took his maiden pole position at Austria for the 2021 Styrian Grand Prix, his third pole in a single season- the best he’s ever managed- and his sixth overall, he put himself in the driver’s seat for the eighth race of the season. In setting a blisteringly quick 1:03:841, the main threat in Hamilton’s way of yet an eighth world championship furthered the hopes of his Red Bull team to open an even bigger gap to arch-rivals Mercedes.
But for that, the Red Bull frontman will have to negotiate what could well be 71 tough laps for Lewis Hamilton, due to begin on second on the grid, won’t be content on staying only on the Red Bull’s tail. Though, it was Bottas who took second, trailing Max Verstappen by only a tenth of a second, due to a three-grid penalty (for an incident in the pits), the Finn is due to begin the Styrian challenge from behind Perez.
Meanwhile, McLaren’s Norris, young and ebullient, who birthed here at the Styrian wilderness the legend of the ‘Last Lap Lando,” by making crucial and breathtakingly beautiful overtakes in the final lap in 2020 will begin from third on the grid. He’ll be closely followed and who knows, probably challenged keenly by the other Red Bull driver Perez, who’s already locked a brilliant win at Baku previously in the season.
Though, not in the best of forms in the final hot lap of Q3, Perez managed to finish three-tenths behind Max on fourth and he too would be challenged by the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas, who’s due to begin P5 on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Gasly, P6, Leclerc, P7, and Tsunoda, P8, all separated by two tenths of a second will be trying to push further up but the battle between the young Frenchman Gasly and the Monegasque could well turn to the Alpha Tauri’s advantage, given the car’s superior straight line speed.
Fernando Alonso, who set a mega lap time at 1:04:574 will begin from ninth, the only Alpine car to have made it to Q3 as the Spaniard will be trailed by the Canadian Aston Martin driver Lance Stroll who didn’t enjoy a spectacular final run in Q3.
Meanwhile, one of the most valiant drives from a sunny Qualifying session here in Austria belonged to young Williams driver George Russell, due to begin from eleventh on the grid. At one stage in Q2, Russell, was on tenth, a fine performance, which would be usurped eventually by a scintillating lap by the veteran Fernando Alonso.
But then again, P11 isn’t that bad a place to begin the 71-lap slugfest of speed, is it?
Russell, once again, the faster of the two Williams’, would be followed by Carlos Sainz, P12, Riccardo in P13, and Sebastian Vettel, down in fourteenth.
While Sainz found his lap time deleted going wide into turn 9, Daniel Ricciardo had a tough time to put together a solid lap while the experienced Sebastian Vettel struggled too to get a decent result from his Aston Martin.
Giovinazzo outperforms Kimi yet again
The man who, back in 2019, opened his account at the very track, will begin his Styrian run from fifteenth on the grid. And who knows, a place or two up inside the opening lap might give Giovinazzi that extra bit of advantage to contest for points.
It wasn’t a terrible drive from Latifi, who managed a P16, improving over his P18 at the very venue last year, as the Canadian is due to start the race ahead of Kimi Raikkonen.
Though on his part, the Flying Finn, no longer flying in the 2021 season, his vapid qualifying form clearly for everyone to see struggled to get the best out of his car and will again begin from a lacklusture grid position.
Meanwhile, Schumacher pipped Mazepin at Haas to take nineteenth with the Russian taking the rear-end of the field.
But come race day, all eyes will be concentrating on the key battle out in the front- can round eight, therefore, offer a slugfest of speed given two of the best drivers will be duelling, once again, for the battle of supremacy?
It’s all to play for come Sunday’s mega race!