SPIELBERG - Six-times Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton lived up to his ‘rain master’ reputation to put his Mercedes on pole position for the first Styrian Grand Prix at Austria’s Red Bull Ring on Saturday.
In a session that started 46 minutes late after a washedout final practice, the Briton powered through the spray to go top with a time 1.216 seconds quicker than Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. The pole was a record-extending 89th of Hamilton’s F1 career. McLaren’s Spaniard Carlos Sainz qualified third, a career best, with Hamilton’s Finnish team mate Valtteri Bottas — winner of the season-opener from pole at the same circuit last weekend — fourth fastest.
“What a tricky day,” said the Briton after his stunning performance. “The weather was incredibly difficult out there for all of us. A lot of the time you couldn’t even see where you were going. “I had a big aquaplane at one point — I definitely had my heart in my mouth - but I was able to improve and put in a nice, clean lap. I love these days.” The battle was between Hamilton and Verstappen, with the Dutch 22-year-old — himself pretty handy in the wet — going fastest two minutes from the end but then losing control and sliding wide. The champion, who can move a step closer to Michael Schumacher’s all-time record 91 wins on Sunday, made sure pole was his with an extraordinary final effort of one minute 19.273 seconds. “You can’t see a thing, it is hard to see the braking zones but that is the same for everyone. I think in the dry we can have a good shot at it,” said Verstappen, a two times winner in Austria.
Frenchman Esteban Ocon qualified fifth for Renault, with Alex Albon sixth for Red Bull and Pierre Gasly seventh for Red Bull-owned AlphaTauri. Australian Daniel Ricciardo, suffering a sore knee after a crash in Friday practice, will line up eighth for Renault and McLaren’s Lando Norris ninth after a three-place grid penalty incurred in Friday practice.
Four-times world champion Sebastian Vettel was the fastest of the struggling Ferraris, but last in the top 10 shootout, with team mate Charles Leclerc only 11th. British youngster George Russell will start 12th in his Williams team’s highest grid position since 2018 and his best qualifying yet.