Red Bull's world championship leader Max Verstappen stormed to pole position for the Styrian Grand Prix on Saturday, once again dominating the field and leaving Mercedes' defending champ Lewis Hamilton in his wake.
Mercedes’ Valterri Bottas was second quickest but drops to fifth on the grid because of a three-place penalty for a pit-lane mishap on Friday, leaving Hamilton to start on the front row alongside title rival Verstappen, who holds a 13-point lead in the championship race.
Verstappen's pole was never in doubt as he outclassed the field, but Hamilton may have had a run at him on his final flying lap had he not got caught up in traffic.
"It's been a very good weekend. The car was really good," said Verstappen. "It's not easy with the traffic to try and get a clean run in the last few corners but I think that first lap in Q3 was good enough. Super happy to be on pole at home, it's always nice to see a Red Bull car on pole here. It's never easy but it's good for racing. I'm sure tomorrow will be very tough."
Hamilton was realistic about a poor qualifying, by his standards. "Red Bull have been so fast this weekend, we have been giving it absolutely everything," he said. "It wasn't the greatest of sessions but still on the front row after the penalty. I did everything I could and we go into the race tomorrow for a fight.
"They've generally had a quarter of a second on us all weekend. We have managed to eke closer in qualifying but in the race run yesterday they were 0.25secs quicker. It will be interesting but I don't think we will have the pace to overtake them, but hopefully we can keep up."
Styrian Grand Prix starting grid
1. Max Verstappen, Netherlands, Red Bull
2. Lewis Hamilton, Great Britain, Mercedes
3. Lando Norris, Great Britain, McLaren
4. Sergio Perez, Mexico, Red Bull
5. Valtteri Bottas, Finland, Mercedes *demoted from 2nd for penalty
6. Pierre Gasly, France, Alphatauri
7. Charles Leclerc, Monaco, Ferrari
8. Yuki Tsunoda, Japan, Alphatauri
9. Fernando Alonso, Spain, Alpine
10. Lance Stroll, Canada, Aston Martin
11. George Russell, Great Britain, Williams
12. Carlos Sainz Jr, Spain, Ferrari
13. Daniel Ricciardo, Australia, McLaren
14. Sebastian Vettel, Germany, Aston Martin
15. Antonio Giovinazzi, Italy, Alfa Romeo
16. Nicholas Latifi, Canada, Williams
17. Esteban Ocon, France, Alpine
18. Kimi Raikkonen, Finland, Alfa Romeo
19. Mick Schumacher, Germany, Haas
20. Nikita Mazepin, Russia, Haas