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Max pips Leclerc and Sainz to take pole at 2023 Austrian Grand Prix

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Amid the serene Styrian Alps and the picturesque landscape of the one and only Red Bull ring, there was but one man who prevailed, perhaps as expected, right in front.  

And even as the twin Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz jr. tried their best, putting a mighty fine performance in qualifying at Austria, they could not stop Max Verstappen from snatching pole position. 

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However, that was after being in close heels of the famous double world champion for the entirery of the final qualifying run here on Friday. 

With Verstappen setting a personal best as also the eventual best lap time during qualifying – 1:04:391- it meant that the runaway champion gathered not just his fourth pole position on the trot but also his fourth here at Red Bull’s home Grand Prix at Austria. 

Leclerc, who may have had a heart in the mouth moment particularly in the final two tricky corners of the circuit was second best from his Ferrari teammate Sainz, however, trailing Verstappen by only four hundredth of a second. 

Sainz, upon the completion of a closely fought qualifying battle asserted, that being in close contention to the frontrunner was a sign of optimism and that he and his team are pleased with the effort. 

But then, this being a sprint race weekend; there’s more work for everyone to do on a Saturday where first they’d be a qualifying to set the grid for the sprint race and after that, the short race itself ahead of Sunday’s main action. 

Meanwhile, Lando Norris, who at one point set imperious pace during the qualifying had to settle for a fourth place result at the end of Q3.

But he’d draw heart from the fact that out here in Austria, he’s had no fewer than two top three qualifying results including a best result of P2 at the 2021 Austrian Grand Prix qualifying, where he’d begun behind Red Bull’s Verstappen. 

Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes, who was setting the fastest time of them all during sector 1 in the final flying lap of Q3 bagged a P5, being the driver of the only Mercedes that made it to the final qualifying run. 

For the first time in several races together Lance Stroll outperformed his teammate Fernando Alonso to bat a sixth place in Q3, with the experienced stalwart of F1 all set to begin from P7. 

Though that wasn’t before locking up in a tight corner in the early stages of Q2 previously, a rare error from a racing titan that would make Alonso one among the several drivers who had a lap time deleted. 

Meanwhile, Nico Hulkenberg of Haas managed an eighth place position followed by Pierre Gasly, the faster of the two Alpine cars in ninth and the continuously improving Alex Albon of Williams bagging a tenth place start to Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix. 

On an off day for Esteban Ocon, usually the more attacking driver on a Saturday, it was his fellow Frenchman who had his nose ahead breaking into the top ten while Albon’s prowess asserted the fact that the recently bagged seventh place finish at Canada was no flash-in-the-pan occurrence for the British-Thai driver. 

Then came two of the biggest losers from the qualifying at the Red Bull run; George Russell and Sergio Perez both of whom were knocked out in Q2 itself. 

But while Russell, arguably coming under increasing attack from teammate Hamilton’s qualifying pace managed eleventh, Perez, who in the dying moments of Q2 had actually set the second fastest lap found himself relegated down to fifteen as a result of his lap time deletion. 

Esteban Ocon, Oscar Piastri and Valtteri Bottas qualified in twelfth, thirteenth and fourteenth, respectively. 

However, Bottas, who was on pole back in 2020 here at the Styrian Grand Prix (with Mercedes) wouldn’t complain too much after scoring a good recovery post spinning out sharply during Q1, and thus bringing the session to be red flagged. 

That told, Yuki Tsunoda, Zhou Guanyu and Logan Sargeant all had an off day in the field in taking sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth on the grid, respectively.

However, they’d fare better but only just to Kevin Magnussen of Haas who had settle for a P19 with the under-fire Nyck de Vries doing himself no favours whatsoever by locking the final grid position for Sunday’s contest. 

The biggest chunk of the action, meanwhile, will likely belong to what happens to the top three out in the front. 

Can Leclerc, who demonstrated pure class and flair in the fading moments of Q3, up his game and put Verstappen under some sort of pressure or will Max Verstappen, three wins at this venue, successfully leap ahead of Alain Prost and Jo Siffert, who are the only other drivers with most number of wins against their name at this breathtakingly beautiful but rampantly quick venue? 

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Dev Tyagi
Dev Tyagi
Dravid believer, admirer of - the square drive, Drew Barrymore, Germany, Finland, Electric Mobility, simplicity and the power of the written word! Absolutely admire contributing to KyroSports

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