Red Bull’s Max Verstappen took his sixth pole position of the 2023 F1 season just 0.048s ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc with Carlos Sainz third in a tight Qualifying session at the Red Bull Ring in which track limits violations played a major role, with Sergio Pérez being ruled out in Q2 after exceeding the limits on all three of his flying laps.
At the start of Q1 Verstappen took an early P1 with a lap of 1:05.190, seven tenths of a second ahead of McLaren’s Oscar Piastri, and Pérez slotting into third. With a little under 12 minutes remaining the session was red-flagged when Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas spun at the exit of Turn 1.
The Finn eventually got restarted and headed back to the pit lane. During the stoppage, Verstappen’s initial lap was deleted for exceeding track limits at Turn 10. After a six-minute delay, running resumed and Verstappen moved back to P1 with a lap of 1:05.116. That put him a little over two tenths clear of Carlos Sainz, with the Spaniard’s Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc 0.461 off the Dutchman in P3.
Pérez, who had stayed in his garage, dropped to P13 `but with a little under three minutes left he emerged from the pit lane and he vaulted to P2 on the timesheet with a lap of 1:05.177, 0.061s behind his team-mate and almost two tenths ahead of Sainz, with Alpine’s Pierre Gasly in P4 ahead of Leclerc.
At the other end of the timesheet and ruled out after the first segment were 16th-placed AlphaTauri drover Yuki Tsunoda followed by Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu, Williams’ Logan Sargeant, Haas’ Kevin Magnussen, and Nyck de Vries in the second AlphaTauri.
At the start of Q2 Verstappen again set the early pace with a lap of 1:04.955. Pérez took P2, just under a tenth off his team-mate, but moments later both Red Bull drivers had their times deleted for exceeding track limits at Turn 9. It meant that McLaren’s Lando Norris took over at the top of the timesheet with a lap of 1:05.038.
Verstappen jumped back to P1 with his next lap of 1:04.51, ahead of Sainz and Norris. Pérez then climbed to fourth place with a lap of 1:05.235 but after slipping to P6 Pérez then dropped back to P15 when his second flyer was deleted. Both Aston Martin drivers and Mercedes’ George Russell also fell foul of the white lines.
Pérez was quickly back on track for his final flyer and he jumped to P2 with a lap of 1:04.990. It looked like he was safe but within seconds his final flyer was deleted and for exceeding the limits in Turn 10. The Mexican plummeted back to P15 and elimination.
Verstappen eased through in P1 ahead of Sainz, Norris and Leclerc, bt the drivers ruled out of Q3 were Russell in P11, followed by Alpine’s Esteban Ocon, Piastri, Bottas, whose final lap was deleted, and the unfortunate Pérez.
At the start of the top 10 shoot-out, Williams’ Alex Albon set the first time with a lap of 1:05.823, but Verstappen took provisional pole with a strong lap of 1:04.503. Leclerc slotted into P2, 0.206s behind the Dutchman, with Sainz in third place ahead of Norris.
And in the final runs, the battle for pole on the short, high-speed Red Bull Ring was incredibly tight. Verstappen improved to 1:04.391. He had a nervous wait, however, as Leclerc was matching his sector times. But though the Ferrari driver got close, the Dutchman’s pace proved to be simply irresistible and he claimed his sixth pole of the season 0.048s ahead of the Ferrari driver with Sainz in third place.
2023 FIA Formula 1 Austrian Grand Prix – Qualifying
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1:04.391
2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:04.439 0.048
3 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:04.581 0.190
4 Lando Norris McLaren 1:04.658 0.267
5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:04.819 0.428
6 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:04.893 0.502
7 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 1:04.911 0.520
8 Nico Hulkenberg Haas 1:05.090 0.699
9 Pierre Gasly Alpine 1:05.170 0.779
10 Alex Albon Williams 1:05.823 1.432
11 George Russell Mercedes 1:05.428 1.037
12 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:05.453 1.062
13 Oscar Piastri McLaren 1:05.605 1.214
14 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 1:05.680 1.289
15 Sergio Perez Red Bull Racing 2’06.688 1:02.297
16 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1:05.784 1.393
17 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 1:05.818 1.427
18 Logan Sargeant Williams 1:05.948 1.557
19 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:05.971 1.580
20 Nyck de Vries AlphaTauri 1:05.974 1.583