Austria Shootout: Verstappen double pole, Mercedes flop

Austria Shootout: Verstappen double, Ferrari chase, Mercedes flop

Max Verstappen set the fastest time of the second Sprint Shootout session of the 2023 Formula 1 season in Austria, and will start the Sprint Race first ahead of teammate Sergio Perez.

While Friday’s running around Spielberg was in dry conditions, there was heavy rain fall overnight as well in the morning, but the rain stopped ahead of the shootout, with some parts of the track drying out, but with the session deemed a wet session, there was a mix of tyre compounds used by the teams at the start of the session.

With that, Verstappen continued his dominance at Red Bull’s home race, setting the fastest time of the session ahead of his teammate Perez who made amends after his disappointing Qualifying on Friday.

Lando Norris continued his strong performances in the upgraded McLaren MCL60, and will start the Sprint Race from third on the grid behind the Red Bulls.

Mercedes has an appalling session, losing Lewis Hamilton in SQ1 while George Russell was eliminated in SQ2 with a hydraulic problem preventing him from taking part.

Ferrari could not repeat the same performance they showed on Friday in Qualifying, probably struggling with the cool conditions, while Aston Martin never seemed to be contenders for a top result.

Verstappen said after the Sprint Shootout: “It was good. Of course the track was drying up so lap after lap you were improving and had to be on the track at the right time.

“I think we did well. The car was in a good window, good balance. Very happy of course to be first. I don’t know why it’s a bit different today, The track is not fully dry. The car is quick and let’s see over a stint how we will perform,” he added.

SQ3: Verstappen on a different level

Verstappen was the fastest at the end of SQ3 with a lap time of 1:04.440, which was 0.493s faster than his teammate Perez in the sister RB19.

Norris was third fastest for McLaren, but 0.570s off the pace of the Dutchman, but the Briton was clearly enjoying is updated MCL60 which seems to be an improvement out of the box.

Nico Hulkenberg was a superb fourth for the Haas team with a 1:05.084, and was 0.052s ahead of Carlos Sainz who was fifth fastest in the Ferrari.

Charles Leclerc couldn’t find his rhythm in the sister SF-23, and was sixth fastest, 0.109s slower than his teammate.

Fernando Alonso was faster than Lance Stroll this time around, but only seventh fastest for Aston Martin, 0.818s off the pace, a surprising gap given how short the Red Bull Ring is.

Stroll was eighth fastest in the sister Green Car, 0.089s slower than his teammate, with Esteban Ocon ninth fastest in the Alpine, 0.019s further down the road.

Kevin Magnussen was tenth.

SQ2: Russell follows Hamilton

After losing Hamilton in SQ1, Mercedes’ trouble continued in SQ2, as Russell was stuck in the team’s garage with a hydraulic problem on his W14, TV footage showing the mechanics frantically working on the car’s front end.

Russell never made it out on track, and as the session was concluded, Verstappen lead the way into SQ3, fastest of all with a 1:05.371, 0.063s ahead of Sainz, while Ocon was third fastest, 0.233s off the pace.

As for the drivers that were eliminated in SQ2, Alex Albon was the first, as he was 11th fastest and lost out to Hulkenberg by 0.061s.

Pierre Gasly was 12th fastest, with Yuki Tsunoda 13th in the AlphaTauri.

Nyck de Vries was 14th fastest in the other AlphaTauri, while Russell who did not set a time will line up 15th on the Sprint Race grid later today.

Worth noting that Hulkenberg has a scary moment in the pitlane as his Haas was sent bouncing off a tyre – just removed from his car – was kept in the pitlane in the way.

SQ1: Hamilton eliminated early on

After the drivers took a look at the track with Intermediate tyres, they all returned to their pits to bolt on some slick Tyres, and as per the rules for wet sessions, used Soft tyres can be used.

Early on, Sainz reported a brake-by-wire issue on his SF-23 claiming that the brake pedal felt strange, upon which the team instructed him to box the car.

And as the drivers started pounding in the laps on the drying track, they started taking turns at the top of the timing screens, with the track continuously improving.

With the track temperature around 23C, compared to 45C on Friday, getting the tyres up to temperature was the name of the game.

With SQ1 done, Sainz lead the pack into Q2 with a 1:06.187, bouncing back from his early brake trouble, with Verstappen second fastest, 0.049s behind. Hulkenberg was third fastest.

While Leclerc made it into SQ2 by the skin of his teeth, beating Zhou Guanyu by a mere 0.001s, Hamilton was out of the Shootout, the only big name not to make it.

Hamilton said after SQ1: “Timing was not right. Sprint races are mad anyway. I’ll start from the back. It is what it is.

“Nothing to say to the team. We will focus on our job. I’ll have a bit of fun in the back,” he added.

Zhou was 16th fastest ahead of McLaren’s Oscar Piastri who was 17th fastest and ahead of Hamilton who was only 18th.

Valtteri Bottas was 19th fastest ahead of Logan Sargeant in 20th.

Austria Sprint Shootout Results


A reminder of the Shootout rules

Before going though the details of what went down in the Sprint Shootout, here is a quick reminder of the rules; the Sprint Shootout will be divided into three sessions, SQ1 (12 minutes), SQ2 (10 minutes) and SQ3 (8 minutes), with new tyres mandatory in the first two phases of the Shootout, new Mediums for SQ1 and SQ2 and new/used Softs for SQ3.

The timings mean that drivers might get the chance to have up to two timed laps in SQ1, but only one in SQ2 and SQ3, which increases the chances of an unpredictable outcome.

That meant that drivers that used more Soft tyres in Qualifying on Friday and ran out of them will not take part in SQ3 if they reach it, but now the FIA have reacted to this and tweaked the rules allowing drivers to use any set of Soft tyres available to them, meaning they can use used Soft tyres should they need to.

If the sessions is deemed a wet session, any tyre compound can be used.