F1 Austrian Grand Prix qualifying results: Charles Leclerc scores second career pole

The pole is the first for Ferrari in Austria since 2003.

Charles Leclerc scored a second career Formula 1 pole Saturday and will start the Austrian Grand Prix from the front as Ferrari looks to break Mercedes clean sweep of wins in 2019.

Denied a win in Bahrain with a fault in his car, failing to take a potential pole and win in Azerbaijan with an individual error in qualifying, Leclerc has had several chances to stand on the top step of the podium. But, for one reason or another it just hasn’t yet happened.

After an extremely underwhelming performance from Ferrari in France, despite Leclerc bringing home the third-place trophy, few people would have put money on Leclerc taking pole at the Red Bull Ring.  However, few would put money on anyone but Leclerc spraying the victory champagne on Sunday having after winning Ferrari’s first Austrian pole since Michael Schumacher accomplished the feat in 2003.

“The car felt amazing,” said Leclerc. “In FP1 I struggled a little bit and we made some changes, then from FP2 it was quite good and a big pleasure to drive this car on the limit. It just felt great and I’m very happy to bring the pole position back home, but tomorrow we need to finish the job.”

Where possible, teams usually attempt to escape Q2 on the medium option tire giving themselves what is often seen as the more optimum race strategy. Because of the way that Ferrari uses it’s tires however, high straight-line speed and relatively low corner speed, the Italian team believe that the soft gives them a better chance of victory on Sunday and will start on the red wall tires. Mercedes two drivers and Max Verstappen in the Red Bull will start on medium yellow wall tires.

“On what we tested in FP2, we are pretty happy with the choice we’ve made,” Leclerc said. “It’s going to be very difficult physically tomorrow, because in the car it’s very warm, but also (it will be difficult for) the car.”

After the session Lewis Hamilton lined up alongside Leclerc on the front row. But a Q1 incident that saw Hamilton unintentionally block Kimi Raikkonen the Mercedes driver was under investigation by the stewards after the session.  After the investigation, Hamilton was given a three-place grid drop, the normal outcome for such an infraction.

“Congratulations to Charles,” said Hamilton right after qualifying. “He’s been quick all weekend. We’ve just not been able to keep up with him this weekend.

“Positioning was so difficult out there and I was always out at the front so was never getting the slipstream. Luckily, that last lap I was in an ok position, but it was quite tight right at the end. I didn’t know if we’d get to start the lap or not.

“I saw three cars behind me try to start their lap, so it was a bit of a panic but nonetheless, I’m grateful.”

As a result of the Hamilton penalty, winner of the Austrian Grand Prix in 2018, Max Verstappen moves up to second place. The home race of his Red Bull team, Verstappen was more than a little surprised to have found himself splitting the Mercedes cars on the grid right after the session.

“I’m actually really happy at the moment,” said Verstappen. “For us, this is an amazing result on this track. It’s not easy for us and the whole weekend, with the upgrades we’ve brought, the car seems to be working a bit better and I’m really happy to be in the top three.”

Speaking of the Dutch ‘orange army’ that line the Red Bull ring in support of Verstappen, he added, “It’s great. It brings a big smile to my face and hopefully I can give them a great result tomorrow.”

Having shown good pace in the early parts of qualifying, Sebastian Vettel was unable to complete a lap in Q3 as a pneumatic problem, thought to be caused by running over the punishing Austrian curbs, put an early end to his running. As a result of not running in Q3, the German will line-up tenth.

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