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Verstappen edges shock Norris to pole as Alonso shows fury to Vettel

Verstappen edges shock Norris to pole as Alonso shows fury to Vettel

Verstappen edges shock Norris to pole as Alonso shows fury to Vettel

Verstappen edges shock Norris to pole as Alonso shows fury to Vettel

Max Verstappen clinched pole position for the third consecutive race to underline his growing superiority of this year's F1 title race - but only just from McLaren's Lando Norris.

In front of packed grandstands at the Red Bull Ring for the Austrian Grand Prix as F1 welcomed back a capacity crowd for the first time since the end of 2019, Red Bull driver Verstappen gave his massed ranks of supporters plenty to cheer about.

As was the case a week ago ahead of the Styrian GP, Verstappen will start from top spot but the Dutchman only just pipped Norris by 0.048secs, with his best lap on his first run in Q3 with 1:03.720s.

In a perfect result for Red Bull, Sergio Perez will line up third on the grid, ahead of Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, with the seven-time F1 champion three-tenths of a second adrift of Verstappen.

The leading quintet will all crucially start on the medium-compound Pirelli tyres.

The crucial difference between this qualifying session and that of a week ago was the step softer tyres, with the red-banded rubber being the softest in the range of the Italian manufacturer.

After Mercedes had topped practice on Friday in cooler conditions than those a few days previously across the Styrian GP weekend, the hotter temperatures throughout qualifying were a welcome sight for Red Bull, and they made Mercedes pay.

With air temperature at 25 degrees centigrade, it sent the track temperature soaring to 52, and Verstappen produced a scintillating lap on his first run as he was off the pace on his second.

Behind him, Norris had streamlined marginally on his second quick lap and purpled the first sector, but come the end of the lap was only marginally off claiming what would have been the first pole of his career.

AlphaTauri duo Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda line up sixth and seventh, with Aston Martin's Sebastian Vettel eighth on the grid.

Vettel, however, is under investigation for a clear block on Alpine's Fernando Alonso through turn 10 as the Spaniard was due to complete his flying lap.

Alonso slowed alongside Vettel on the start-finish start, showing his frustration by twice punching the air with anger, with his fellow champion responding by holding up an apologetic hand for several seconds.

For the first time in his 46 grands prix as a Williams driver, George Russell qualified for the top-10 shoot-out, to the delight of everyone in the garage.

After missing out by just eight-thousandths of a second a week ago, on this occasion, Russell made it through by a mere 0.006s, and will start ninth after finishing ahead of the second Aston Martin of Lance Stroll.

It is only the second time Williams has achieved the feat since the end of 2017, with Stroll the other driver to do so, for the 2018 Italian GP.

Ferrari gambled on running the medium compound tyres in Q2 but it was one that backfired as Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc missed out on the top 10, the former by such a slender margin to Russell who had also opted for the yellow-band rubber.

The upside for Ferrari is they get a free choice of tyre for the start of the race and will hope they can move forward as they did last Sunday.

Daniel Ricciardo's struggles continue with McLaren as the Australian starts 13th, ahead of the fuming Alonso and Alfa Romeo's Antonio Giovinazzi.

Bizarrely, the bottom five for the Styrian race was repeated for this event, with Alfa Romeo's Kimi Raikkonen and Nicholas Latifi in his Williams trading places.

Raikkonen starts 16th and Latifi 18th, with Alpine's Esteban Ocon again sandwiched between the pair, with the Frenchman half-a-second behind team-mate Alonso who finished third quickest in Q1.

The back row will again be occupied by Haas duo Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin, as per last week, with over half-a-second separating the German to the Russian.

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