A thrilling qualifying at the Spielberg circuit featured an excellent showing from Scuderia Ferrari with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz ensuring they start Sunday’s Grand Prix at 15.00 CEST, from second and third places on the grid.
The three phases of qualifying were fought out to the hundredths of a second, partly down to the short track and the fact that a lap here takes only just over a minute. Complicating matters were the track limit rules at the last two corners, which led to many drivers having lap times cancelled.
However, Charles and Carlos were very precise and got through to the top ten battle without any particular problems. For Q3, they both had two sets of new Soft tyres. With Sainz, the decision was taken to also use the set that was theoretically being kept for tomorrow’s Sprint Shootout, after the Spaniard had already used three in Q2 and was always competitive. It was a choice also taken by six other drivers in Q3.
On their first runs, Leclerc and Sainz posted strong times of 1’04”709 and 1’04”927, before improving on their second lap. Charles’ time of 1’04”439 was just 48 thousandths slower than Max Verstappen’s pole lap and Carlos managed a 1’04”581 to secure third place on the second row.
As per this year’s new format, the Grand Prix event is now put on hold with tomorrow dedicated to the Sprint. Qualifying for the Sprint Shootout features shorter Q1, Q2 and Q3 times and just one set of tyres per session (Medium for the first two phases and Soft for the final one.) The race starts at 16.30, run over 19 laps (100 kilometres.) This will also be a further opportunity for teams to evaluate their pace for Sunday’s Grand Prix. Tomorrow, there is some uncertainty over the weather forecast, with rain a possibility.
‘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.’
‘Overall it was a positive day for me and the team, as we will be starting P2 and P3 on Sunday. The car felt strong all day and I was fast from the very beginning, which is always a positive sign. We don’t really know how our pace compares to the others, but I’m really looking forward to racing tomorrow and Sunday. Despite this good result, I think we should work together with the FIA to find alternative ways to decide track limits quicker and more efficiently. I had a good lap on my first attempt in Q2 and I was already preparing for Q3 when we had to go out again since there were doubts about my lap. This meant I had to use the extra set of Softs we had saved for the Sprint qualifying tomorrow and it could have been avoided, as my lap was not deleted.’
Frédéric Vasseur Team Principal
‘As expected, qualifying was frenetic. Congratulations to Charles and Carlos who made no mistakes and always respected the track limits, performing competitively from start to finish. Of course, the 48 thousandths gap to pole hurts a bit, but we have to look at the positives, of which there are quite a few. In the race in Montreal, we made a good step forward and we are looking to confirm that here. We had some updates here to evaluate on track and of course, being a Sprint weekend meant there was less free practice time to do that, with just one session. But Charles and Carlos both felt the benefit and I want to thank everyone back in Maranello who worked night and day to have these new parts ready in time for this weekend. Tomorrow is all about the Sprint, with qualifying and the race, but that will also give us a further opportunity to prepare for Sunday’s Grand Prix. There’s a long way to go this weekend, but we have started it on the right foot.’