June 29, 2019
Charles Leclerc took pole for the Austrian Grand Prix, pulling off a series of superb laps at the Red Bull Ring under great pressure. It was far from a perfect weekend for Ferrari, however, as Sebastian Vettel suffered a mechanical problem in the final session and set no time, finishing 10th. Leclerc beat Lewis Hamilton into second with Max Verstappen for Red Bull third. Valtteri Bottas was fourth with Kevin Magnussen taking a strong fifth for Haas.
Charles Leclerc takes Austrian Grand Prix pole ahead of Lewis Hamilton
Leclerc has looked very strong all weekend and laid down his marker with his first hot run in Q3, with a time of 1min 3.208sec, a full three tenths clear of Bottas and sixth-tenths up on Hamilton.
The tight, short lap requires complete control and precise positioning, and Leclerc had his second lap exactly where he wanted it. On the final runs he improved again with a time of 1:3.003, this time two-tenths up on Hamilton.
Hamilton is under investigation by the stewards for impeding Kimi Räikkönen’s Alfa Romeo at turn three in Q1 and may yet face a grid penalty. The Mercedes driver was close to the inside line of the corner when the Finn looked to go through on a quick lap, although he went wide off-track as soon as he was aware of Räikkönen.
Ferrari discovered a problem with the air pressure line in Vettel’s engine between the second and third sessions but although the team worked furiously on it, he was unable to emerge for the final runs. He will start ninth because although Magnussen was fifth he has a five-place grid penalty for taking a new gearbox.
The Ferraris set their quickest laps in Q2 on the soft tyres with which they will start the race, while both Mercedes drivers opted for the mediums.
This is Leclerc’s second career pole position after he took the top spot at the second round in Bahrain and continues an impressive start for the 21-year-old in his first season for Ferrari and only his second in Formula One. He will be optimistic of converting the pole into his debut F1 win.
Charles Leclerc takes Austrian Grand Prix pole ahead of Lewis Hamilton
Leclerc was hugely unlucky in Bahrain not to take the flag after he led and dominated the race until a mechanical problem relegated him to third. He took the disappointment well however and has come back with another powerful statement of intent. He has spoken about needing to adapt to changing track conditions better in the final part of qualifying and did so superbly here.
For Ferrari it is the very least they needed in a season that is slipping away. Vettel trails Hamilton, the world championship leader, by 76 points and Leclerc is 24 points behind his teammate, a gap that does not reflect how strong some of his performances have been.
The Scuderia badly need to begin hauling the two Mercedes drivers back in and if Leclerc can win on Sunday it will just keep their title hopes alive. Ferrari had hoped to be strong in Austria with the Red Bull Ring expected to suit their car. The relatively few corners of the circuit link a series of short, fast straights that play to the strengths of the Scuderia’s power unit and negate its downforce deficit through the corners. Leclerc was able to make the most of it and find the edge.
The fearsome heat could yet play a part, especially for brake temperatures. The air temperature was at 34C on Thursday and is expected to be similar on Sunday. Last year unusually both Mercedes cars were forced to retire.
The track has proved unforgiving this weekend and negotiating race distance will demand full concentration. Verstappen and Bottas were both caught out and crashed in practice, while winds and high kerbs have proved problematic. The grass and gravel run-offs of the Red Bull Ring have proved pleasingly punishing of errors.
McLaren’s Lando Norris was sixth with the Alfa Romeos of Räikkönen and Antonio Giovinazzi seventh and eighth, with Pierre Gasly ninth for Red Bull. Renault’s Nico Hülkenberg was in 12th place but will take a five-place grid penalty for using his fifth engine of the season. His teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, was 14th. The Haas of Romain Grosjean was 11th.
McLaren’s Carlos Sainz was 15th but will start from 19th having taken an entire new power unit and gearbox for this race. He is joined at the very back by Toro Rosso’s Alexander Albon, who took a slew of new components but qualified 13th.
Sergio Pérez and Lance Stroll were 16th and 17th for Racing Point with Daniil Kvyat 18th for Toro Rosso. George Russell and Robert Kubica were 19th and 20th for Williams.
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