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Formula One leader Max Verstappen takes pole position for Austrian GP

SPIELBERG, Austria (AP) — Reigning Formula One champion Max Verstappen topped qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix on Friday to clinch his fourth straight pole position.

The runaway championship leader put his Red Bull on pole for the sixth time this season and 26th overall. He finished a narrow 0.048 seconds ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, whose teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. had the third-quickest time.

“Very happy being on pole but it is a very long weekend,” Verstappen said. “It is always tricky round here.”

Lando Norris qualified in fourth for McLaren ahead of Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, who holds the F1 record of 103 race wins. Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll will start from sixth ahead of teammate Fernando Alonso.

A victory for Verstappen at his team’s home track in Spielberg on Sunday would take him to 42 race wins, one more than the late Ayrton Senna and alone in fifth place on the all-time list.

Mercedes driver George Russell and Red Bull’s Sergio Perez did not make it into the top 10. Perez was eliminated from Q2 after having his lap time deleted for going off track limits.

“No way, where?” Perez asked his team, and let out a couple of expletives after he was told it was Turn 10. He failed to reach Q3 for a fourth straight race and starts from 15th, with Russell going from 11th.

Valtteri Bottas slid backward off track for Alfa Romeo on his first lap to bring out a red flag early in Q1.

After a few minutes, Bottas drove back to the garage and just made it out of Q1, which was the closest this season among the top drivers.

Early in Q2, Verstappen had his first lap time erased after also going wide of track limits, using an expletive on team radio to say what he thought of the “silly” decision given how many cars struggled on Turn 10.

“It is one of the worst tracks for track limits. It’s super-hard to judge it round here,” Verstappen said. “We don’t do it on purpose but with these speeds and high-speed corners it is so hard to judge the white line. That is why a lot of people were getting caught out. It was about surviving.”

Leclerc, one of the quickest drivers on pure pace, pushed hard on his final lap but could not get his second pole of the campaign.

“Overall we didn’t expect to be so close,” said Leclerc, who won here last year for Ferrari for the team’s last F1 victory. “Very close to Max. It is a good step forward.”

The dominant Red Bull team has won all eight races this season, with Verstappen winning the last four and six overall. The 25-year-old Dutchman finished second behind Perez in the other two. Red Bull has won 18 of the past 19 races overall. The only driver to beat Red Bull during that spell is Russell, at the Brazilian GP in last season’s penultimate race.

Verstappen leads the championship by 69 points ahead of Perez, with extra points on offer in Saturday’s sprint race.

The Austrian GP is the second of six F1 events with a format that features a sprint race on the Saturday.

There is another qualifying session known as the “sprint shootout,” setting the grid for the 17-lap sprint race later Saturday.

“This is a different weekend with the whole format,” Verstappen said. “But at least we know the car is quick.”

Perez won the sprint race in Azerbaijan to collect eight points, with Verstappen getting six points by finishing third.


Verstappen led the only practice session before qualifying ahead of Sainz and Leclerc, with Hamilton in fourth.

Hamilton is chasing a third consecutive podium finish but the 38-year-old British driver has not won since the penultimate race of 2021.


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The Associated Press