This weekend, the FIA Formula One World Championship journeyed to the Red Bull Ring in picturesque Styria for the Austrian Grand Prix. With this being the second of three Sprint weekends this season, the qualifying session took place today to accommodate the sprint race tomorrow. Max Verstappen, the reigning world champion, snatched pole position from the clutches of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc. The Red Bull driver set a lap time that was only two-hundredths of a second faster than Leclerc in the final moments of the session.
But the reigning constructors’ champions Mercedes-AMG Petronas were arguably the talk of qualifying. Mercedes showed considerable pace during the second segment of qualifying. Lewis Hamilton finished Q2 with the third fastest lap, only a tenth of a second behind Verstappen in second place. His teammate George Russell was fifth fastest in Q2, a tenth faster than Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Pérez. However, everything came apart for the duo in qualifying’s pole-deciding finale.
With just under six minutes remaining in Q3, Hamilton’s car barreled across the gravel trap at Turn 7 and went straight into the barrier. Hamilton had a moment of oversteer in the corner. He corrected for it and went off track. After a red flag period to remove Hamilton’s car from the track, the session restarted.
Then, the second Mercedes went to the barrier. George Russell had the car’s rear-end come around on him as he turned into the final corner. Russell’s car slid across the paved run-off into the barrier. Both drivers were physically fine after their respective crashes, but their crews are going to have long nights repairing the cars.
While Mercedes missed out on its aspirations of qualifying both its cars on the second row or better, the team’s weekend isn’t entirely ruined just yet. Hamilton and Russell have the chance to improve their Sunday starting positions in the Saturday sprint race. Last season, Hamilton recovered after being disqualified from qualifying for the São Paulo Grand Prix. He finished fifth in the sprint after starting last, then won the race from tenth place on the grid. The seven-time world champion probably won’t replicate what he did in Brazil, but he’s certainly not out of the weekend yet.