Reaction: what drivers say after thrilling Austria qualifying

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The qualifying session at the Red Bull Ring turned into a thriller with Max Verstappen and the Ferrari duo of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz battle it out for the first starting position for Sunday's Austrian Grand Prix. In the end, it was the double world champion to come out on top, but Leclerc was right on his heels with his updated Ferrari SF23.


Charles Leclerc, 2nd, 1:04.439
"It feels good to finally have a clean qualifying again and to be back on the front row. The feeling from the car has been a bit better in the last three races and then in Q1 and Q2, it was all about building up to that lap in Q3 and I managed to put everything into that last lap and got very close to Max.

"We hadn’t expected to be that close to the Red Bull so it’s a good step forward and I would like to thank everyone back at the factory for all the work they have done in the last few weeks in order to bring an update package at Spielberg, earlier than planned. It’s really impressive and helped us to perform well today. Now we need to confirm that in the races, tomorrow and Sunday. Starting from the Sprint we need to focus on consistency and we will see on Sunday if we have the same race pace as in Montreal."

Carlos Sainz, 3rd, 1:04.581
"Overall it was a positive day for me and the team as we will start second and third for the GP on Sunday. The car was good all day and I was fast from the start, which is always a good sign. We don't have many indications on our race pace compared to our rivals but we look forward to tomorrow's and Saturday's races with confidence."


Esteban Ocon, 12th, 1:05.438
“It’s not been an easy day for us as we didn’t reach Q3, which is the minimum aim for each qualifying session. We were in the top ten in Q2, but our lap was deleted for track limits, which we saw many times this afternoon up and down the grid. The margins are very small here, and we really have to push the limits especially at the final two corners as that’s where time is to gain.

"It is disappointing, but I am confident we can recover some places in Sunday’s race from twelfth on the grid. We will review today but now our focus turns to the Sprint Day tomorrow with another Qualifying session before the Sprint Race. There is an opportunity to score points tomorrow and that is our target."

Pierre Gasly, 9th, 1:05.170
"It was a tricky session for everyone with all the track limits incidents, so it was all about pushing everything to the maximum, trying to extract as much lap time as possible but also staying within the limits, especially at the final two corners. I targeted having a trouble-free session, especially after the last two races, so I’m pleased that was the case today. We definitely have a car capable of being in the top ten and there’s another good opportunity tomorrow in the Sprint. It might rain and I’m confident we can score points from the two remaining days in Austria."

Red Bull
Max Verstappen, 1st, 1:04.391
“It’s great to be on pole here at the Red Bull Ring, it feels good. It wasn’t a straightforward qualifying because of all the track limits. It’s very hard to judge the white line here, a lot of us got caught out so at least it wasn’t just us. Today was all about surviving, we just needed to bank the laps as we weren’t able to push hard. It’s such a short lap here so we are all pretty close together. We’ve got a long weekend ahead so a lot can happen, tomorrow will be a completely different story. Today, the car was quick and we were ahead, that’s the most important thing.”

Sergio Perez, 15th, 2:06.668
"I think we most definitely had the pace today and you could see that as qualifying progressed. I’m disappointed, especially with my final lap. It is always fine margins at this circuit and the first two laps that I had deleted for track limits the rules were clear and I accept those decisions from the stewards. On my final run in Q2 I tried to push as best as I could within those limits and was on a good lap but was in traffic and that was trickier to keep clean. It is what it is, we look forward to tomorrow, it is a new opportunity.

"The most positive thing is that we have the pace and then we will try and recover on Sunday afternoon for the race. I am feeling a little better but still not one hundred percent, my whole focus is on being prepared for tomorrow’s Sprint and then racing well on Sunday."


Lewis Hamilton, 5th, 1:04.819
"It was a tough session today, but thankfully we got through it. This track has always been a challenge for our car in the past and it showed again today, so I’ll take P5. It’s a good, strong position to start the race from on Sunday. I’m not quite sure yet, where exactly we stand with our race pace, possibly we’re third or fourth quickest. We’re trying to focus on us and to get around as quick as we can, so we will work hard overnight and try to do better in sprint qualifying tomorrow, depending on weather conditions and temperatures."

George Russell, 11th, 1:05.428
"We weren’t quick enough today and from the first laps in the practice session I didn’t have the best feel of the car. Obviously, it’s challenging going into a sprint race weekend like this, as you just don’t have the time to make necessary changes. We’ll see what we can do overnight going into tomorrow and how we can improve ahead of the sprint qualifying. P11 is clearly not the best starting position for Sunday, but we’ve had some good results starting from further down the field this year so I’m hopeful we can fight our way back during the race."

Aston Martin
Fernando Alonso, 7th, 1:04.911
"I feel good after that qualifying session. It's always intense qualifying here where the lap times are so close. If you look at the timing board throughout the three sessions, there are two or three tenths between a number of cars. Track limits were tight, and I had a couple of laps deleted as I was trying to really commit to those fast corners, but it was the same for everyone and something we're used to around this circuit.

"We had one lap time deleted in Q2, which forced us to put an extra set of tyres on the car to progress. It then meant we only had one chance on new tyres in Q3, which wasn't ideal. Sixth and seventh are strong starting positions for us. I think it'll be interesting and exciting with the weather as there is a chance of rain tomorrow and maybe dry conditions on Sunday. The car feels good, so I'm optimistic heading into the rest of the weekend."

Lance Stroll, 6th, 1:04.893
"I was happy with how the AMR23 was feeling today and pleased with my final lap; I think we got everything we could have out of that qualifying session. Track limits were tight, and I had a couple of laps deleted as I was trying to really commit to those fast corners, but it was the same for everyone and something we're used to around this circuit. It looks like we could be in for some slightly challenging weather conditions for the Sprint events tomorrow, so it's good to have a solid starting position on the board as we look ahead to Sunday's race."


Lando Norris, 4th, 1:04.658
"I’m super happy with P4. It was one of the best qualifying sessions of the season. The car was feeling good today, I had a lot of confidence and was chipping away through qualifying so I’m happy. The team did an awesome job on getting the upgrades ready for this race and they did a great job today to get us there. I think I could’ve had a little bit more as I made a small mistake in the last corner, which likely cost me P3, so I am a little bit frustrated, but at the same time, I’m taking a P4 every day. So, I’m happy, we’re in a good position for Sunday and we’ll try to do the same again tomorrow."

Oscar Piastri, 13th, 1:05.605
“So, P13 in qualifying. It’s a bit of a shame as I would have been in Q3 without the lap deletion. The pace was very encouraging for both myself and Lando. The new upgrade is looking good, so a huge thank you to the team for all of their work. We’ll try again tomorrow to get into the top 10 and then, of course, for Sunday, we’ll try to make our way into the points if we can.”

Alfa Romeo
Valtteri Bottas, 14th, 1:05.680
"Of course, we were targeting something more than Q2, but on the positive, we have seen how margins are very small once again. Overall, it’s been a relatively normal qualifying session, although I spun at the start of Q1: I got too close to a Red Bull who didn’t see me, and I lost the back end. It wasn’t ideal, but I thankfully managed to get back underway with the session. We are still lacking a bit of performance on the single lap, and this is what we’ll be putting our focus on overnight. Tomorrow is a new day, and Sunday as well: there are still lots of opportunities for us to improve. Our target, as always, is to get into the points, and that’s what we’ll be working towards."

Zhou Guanyu, Xth, 1:05.818
"I feel like where we are today doesn’t really reflect our performances: I reckon we had the pace for more. Towards the end of Q1, I found myself at the back of the pack and stood still for over 10 seconds, losing a lot in sector one due to the tyres not being warm enough. I still managed to slightly recover in sector three, but that didn’t end up making enough of a difference.

"Nevertheless, I feel like the potential was definitely there today, so I cannot say I am completely satisfied with this session. Now, our focus will be on tomorrow, especially on the Shootout: hopefully, we’ll be in the fight for some points. As for the the car, we have been able to find a reasonably decent balance, it overall felt okay. I still think we have the potential to be moving forward tomorrow, and on Sunday as well: I am confident we have a chance to climb up the field, and get into the points."


Nico Hulkenberg, 8th, 1:05.090
"Q3 is always good news. We know though the difficulty is in the race for us, but I’m happy to have another smooth qualifying. I extracted everything from the car, and it was a clean execution from myself and the team, which is a positive, and very good for today. One session of one hour is very little time to do things and you also have to prepare a little bit for qualifying. Tomorrow we’ll get a first read and a first answer on how it’s going to go.”

Kevin Magnussen, 19th, 1:05.971
“It’s all so tight at the moment. I had traffic with Verstappen at Turn 1 on the first lap of my final run, but that lap was deleted for track limits, it wouldn’t have counted anyway. Then on my second attempt I had a downshift fault, it wouldn’t downshift, so it cost me a little bit of time at Turn 3 as I was in the wrong gear. When it’s this tight, in fact it’s unbelievably tight – a little issue like that is very costly. Normally you can get away with something like this, but we were just on the wrong end of it today.”


Logan Sargeant, 18th, 1:05.948
“I’ve got mixed feelings after that session. I’m genuinely pretty happy with my lap. I was missing a bit this morning in Free Practice and knew I had a good bit to find but I felt like it was coming. I found most of it through Sectors 1 and 2. I struggled a little bit to judge the last two corners with track limits. Obviously not wanting to lose my lap, I maybe left a little bit too much on the table. Tomorrow is another good day to keep learning. It looks wet so some more time in those conditions would be good for me and a nice change. The grid is brutally close, and I just need to be that bit better.”

Alex Albon, 10th, 1:05.823
"I’m feeling comfortable about the result we delivered today in qualifying, as despite the track limits, we would’ve finished P10 regardless. We got through to Q3 because of a few other drivers suffering from track limits, so P10 was definitely the best we could do. The upgrades are working but I think we had a bit more raw pace in Canada than we do here. We have some quick cars in front and behind us on Sunday, so let’s see how we go."


Nyck de Vries, 20th, 1:05.974
“I think we weren’t quite strong enough today. Especially as the session evolved, I felt as if we were losing performance. In my last run, I made a mistake in Turn 1 and lost two tenths, which would’ve put us slightly more in the mix. Nevertheless, I don’t think we were strong enough to proceed to Q2. Tomorrow is another day with new opportunities and different weather conditions, so we’ll get another shot at maximising our performance.”

Yuki Tsunoda, 16th, 1:05.784
“I’m very frustrated because I couldn’t maximise our performance today due to traffic. The second push was really good, Q2 was possible today, and obviously, the pack is still tight, so it’s a shame, but it is what it is. Tomorrow seems different compared to today, with potential rain forecasted, so we have to be prepared, and I will put my full effort into Sprint qualifying.”