Luke Slater at the Red Bull Ring
This year’s Red Bull might currently be on course to be the most dominant car in Formula One history, but somebody should have told Sergio Perez. The Mexican again failed to make it through to the final part of qualifying as his team-mate and championship leader Max Verstappen took a sixth pole position of the season.
Perez came into this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix in desperate need of a good weekend, having scored just 21 points in the last three rounds. In that time, Verstappen has scored 76 from a possible 78 to extend his championship lead to a mammoth 69 points. The championship’s destination feels like a formality before July has begun.
It is now the fourth race in a row that Perez has failed to make it into Q3. Indeed, he has only made it there a total of four times this year. For comparison, Haas’s Nico Hulkenberg, in a car that is eighth in the standings, has done so five times.
In Melbourne and Monaco it was crashes in qualifying that were Perez’s downfall, but in Austria it was the dreaded “track limits” infringements. Although he was not the only one to be caught out (a total of 47 laps were deleted), the Red Bull driver had numerous lap times deleted by race control.
When informed by his race engineer that his crossing of the white line in Q2 had cost him a place in Q3, he responded in disbelief. “No way, where?” he said. “Can we go again?” Yet the chequered flag was already out and he is doomed to start Sunday’s race in a lowly 15th.
It has been a long time - and must feel even longer - since Perez won in Azerbaijan. That was his second victory in the first four rounds, and left him trailing Verstappen by just six points. After the second of his two street circuit wins in 2023, Red Bull’s team principal Christian Horner quipped that he needed to get going on “proper circuits”.
He is now struggling to do it on any circuit. The deficit to Verstappen has grown almost exponentially in the four rounds since and looks likely to stay on the same trajectory this weekend. Horner was again critical of Perez after qualifying, but quickly shut down any talk that his Red Bull seat was under threat.
“He’s got a car that was easily capable of being on the first or second row. He was matching Max’s times. Stay in the white lines,” Horner said immediately after qualifying.
“At least [Max] responded [to the warnings from the team]. He did that, he built a conservatism into his laps to make sure that he had a wheel inside the line. I think there was a little bit more time in the car in that last sector if he hadn’t gone for it. He was driving with restraint.”
Horner, though, backed his driver when asked if there was any thought about replacing him. Daniel Ricciardo, an eight-time race winner, is Red Bull’s reserve driver for this season.
“Everybody is fully behind Checo,” Horner insisted. “Any talk of replacing Checo is wide of the mark. The most pressure he’s under is the pressure he’s putting himself under. This would have really kick-started things for him.”
In Perez’s defence, Verstappen - who also had laps deleted earlier in qualifying and later visited the stewards for allegedly impeding Kevin Magnussen in Q1 - criticised the situation at the Red Bull Ring.
“You leave a little bit of margin, I think. Especially with me in the last sector,” Verstappen said. “We don’t do this on purpose but with these speeds and high speed corners, it’s so hard to judge the white line. It is one of the worst tracks for it. It’s super easy to go over the white line. I think today looked very silly.
“It almost looked like we were amateurs out there, the amount of lap times that were getting deleted. I don’t think it was a good look today. It was super tricky,” he said after qualifying.
— Formula 1 (@F1) June 30, 2023
Further back, Ferrari, who have suffered another difficult season, put in one of their best qualifying sessions of the year, with Charles Leclerc in second - just 0.048sec off Verstappen - and Carlos Sainz in third.
“It feels good to finally have a clean qualifying again and to be back on the front row. The feeling has been a bit better in the last few races,” said the Monegasque, whose last victory in F1 was at this track last year.
“It was all about building up to that last lap in Q3. Very close to Max, [but] not enough today. Overall I don’t think we expected to be so close to the Red Bull.”
Lando Norris was an impressive fourth for McLaren and Lewis Hamilton was fifth for Mercedes. Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate George Russell failed to make it into Q3 and will start Sunday’s race in 11th.
Williams’s Alexander Albon, who is having another impressive season, especially in qualifying, made it into Q3 for the third time this season, finishing 10th.
Tomorrow’s action at the Red Bull Ring will be the standalone sprint qualifying and then the sprint race, where championship points are awarded for the top-eight finishers.
Austrian GP qualifying, as it happened
05:29 PM BST
An exciting end to the day
05:13 PM BST
Charles Leclerc speaks after his front row
It feels good to finally have a clean qualifying again and to be back on the front row. The feeling has been a bit better in the last few races. It was all about building up to that last lap in Q3. Very close to Max, not enough today. Overall I don’t think we expected to be so close to the Red Bull. It was all about putting everything together. Race pace looked quite good in Montreal. Again, consistency is where we need to focus so we have to see on Sunday if we have the same pace as Montreal. If we can put them in difficulty we can do [our] all.
05:11 PM BST
It was very difficult because of all the track limits. We don’t do this on purpose but with these speeds and high speed corners, it’s so hard to judge the white line. It was about surviving... even in Q3, the first lap you just want a banker lap which just takes out the joy a little bit. It’s still a very long weekend ahead. The cars are big, they are heavy. To judge it on a line, it’s incredibly hard. Very happy with today. At least the car is quick.
05:08 PM BST
Q3 - Classification
05:08 PM BST
Max Verstappen takes pole position for the 2023 Austrian Grand Prix
I would say “never in doubt”, which is what it seemed like it was for most of the day. But when Leclerc put in those fast sectors on his final lap it was certainly under threat.
05:07 PM BST
Q3 - Leclerc can't do it!
It’s a mighty effort in the Ferrari... he gets within a tenth of a second of Verstappen but is on the front row at least.
Sainz third, Norris fourth, Hamilton fifth.
05:06 PM BST
Q3 - Verstappen improves!
A 1:04.391sec puts him 0.318sec up on Leclerc... the two Ferraris are circulating still. Leclerc is going very well! Can he do it? He’s committed... he needs a good final few corners to challenge...
05:05 PM BST
Q3 - Verstappen goes faster still in sector one
He’s 0.073sec up on his previous lap time after two sectors...
05:04 PM BST
Q3 - Frankly I cannot see anyone getting within a tenth of a second of Verstappen
Regardless, Ferrari should be fairly pleased with this. Mercedes perhaps a little confused (though they will expect to go better tomorrow). Norris doing what he does from time to time and that is wring the neck of a car over one lap.
Anyway, the final runs are about to get under way.
05:01 PM BST
Q3 - Order and gaps after the first runs
STR (NO TIME)
05:00 PM BST
Q3 - Hamilton loses a few tenths in the middle sector
Could be in line for fourth if he strings the final two corners together. Nope. He’s behind even Lando Norris, but at least comfortably ahead of Fernando Alonso. Fifth for Hamilton.
04:59 PM BST
Q3 - Hamilton will be the last driver of this 10 to set his lap time
His the fastest of anyone in the first sector...
Stroll, by the way, has had a lap time deleted...
04:58 PM BST
Q3 - Verstappen does indeed go quickest
It’s 1.3sec faster than Albon. Leclerc slots into second and Sainz into third, albeit 0.2 and 0.5s off Verstappen.
04:57 PM BST
Q3 - Albon sets the early pace
Well, mostly because he’s the only driver out there. It’s a 1:05.823 which will be beaten by Max Verstappen very shortly.
04:56 PM BST
Sergio Perez has made Q3 just four times this year
That’s fewer than Nico Hulkenberg.
04:55 PM BST
10 drivers and only one pole man, the usual drill.
04:52 PM BST
Perez pretty unpleased with that
As he should be. But he is raging towards Mr Track Limits rather than himself. He has now failed to get into Q3 for four consecutive races.
04:50 PM BST
Q2 - Classification
04:47 PM BST
Q2 ends - Verstappen fastest
Perez out! Russell out! Albon through in 10th and Norris in third.
04:47 PM BST
Q2 - Oh no, Perez has that lap deleted!
That means he’s out of Q2! Oh dear. Looks like Russell is out too! Ouch.
— Formula 1 (@F1) June 30, 2023
04:46 PM BST
Q2 - Russell is improving
As is Perez. Russell only goes 10th... Perez, though is going to go significantly faster than that. He is second now, 0.039sec off Verstappen. Sainz is also within a tenth of the Dutchman, as is Lando Norris.
04:44 PM BST
Track limits the order of the day here, yet again
— Formula 1 (@F1) June 30, 2023
Perez is told by his engineer that he “just needs to get that banker in”.
04:43 PM BST
Q2 - Order as it stands
Perez has another lap deleted for track limits and drops down to last.
04:41 PM BST
Q2 - Five minutes remain
Drivers still out there doing laps and changing positions. Leclerc in fourth and Hamilton in fifth.
04:40 PM BST
Q2 - Albon's slippery Williams is fastest in sector one
He finishes eighth overall after that lap, which isn’t too bad.
04:40 PM BST
Q2 - Verstappen moves top
But will he stay there this time? Currently 0.087sec faster than Norris with a 1:04.951.
04:39 PM BST
Q2 - Verstappen unhappy with the track's limits
“This is a joke, honestly, with these track limits. F------ ridiculous.”
04:38 PM BST
Q2 - Order after the first runs
Not all of those drivers have set a time, however...
04:36 PM BST
Q2 - Norris now fastest
That is because Perez loses his time for a track limits infringement...
I despair. Hulkenberg into second after Lance Stroll loses his time for track limits.
04:35 PM BST
Q2 - Close between the two Red Bulls
Verstappen’s first lap is just 0.073sec faster than Perez’s. Norris isn’t far off, either, 0.083sec slower than Verstappen. Stroll in fourth, Alonso fifth, though they are a little further back.
Having said that, Verstappen loses his lap for track limits which makes Perez fastest...
04:33 PM BST
Q2 - Perez with a handy first sector
Marginally up on Verstappen. Leclerc a tenth or two away.
04:31 PM BST
15 minutes, 15 drivers in and five to be eliminated. Might we see a shock?
04:28 PM BST
Pretty close from sixth to 16th...
Just 0.146 in it. Yes, it is a short lap, but that is still tight.
04:27 PM BST
Q1 - Classification
04:25 PM BST
Q1 ends - Verstappen fastest
0.061sec ahead of Perez and then Sainz. Full order incoming.
04:24 PM BST
Q1 - Ocon improves to get out of the drop zone
Russell is now in 15th... oof. He moves up to 10th, though, 0.570sec off Verstappen’s time.
04:23 PM BST
Q1 - Into the final moments of Q1
Magnussen and Albon in danger here. Ocon, too, if he doesn’t improve.
04:22 PM BST
Q1 - What is Perez doing?
He’s currently 13th bit is improving. His lap time is good enough for second, 0.061sec off his team-mate.
04:21 PM BST
Q1 - Alonso fails to improve his time
A tenth slower, so he stays fifth. Encouraging-ish signs for Ferrair so far. Norris improves to go second, within a tenth of Verstappen with the fastest middle sector of anyone.
Drop zone: HUL, ALB, OCO, SAR, DEV
04:20 PM BST
Q1 - Order and gaps
04:19 PM BST
Q1 - Lando Norris into fourth
0.501sec off Verstappen. Encouraging. Track evolution tends to be enormous here. Lance Stroll tries, and succeeds, in getting himself out of the bottom five. He moves to 11th with the fastest final sector of anyone. Still a couple of tenths away from Alonso though.
04:18 PM BST
Q1 - Russell finishes his latest hot lap
It’s only good enough for ninth. He says Mercedes have a better race car than qualifying car but that isn’t great - 0.715sec off Verstappen’s fastest time of 1:05.116.
04:17 PM BST
Q1 - Drivers in the drop zone
Albon, Stroll, Ocon, Sargeant and Hulkenberg.
04:16 PM BST
Q1 - Verstappen fastest
He is ahead of Sainz, Leclerc, Norris, Alonso and Hamilton. All within six tenths of one another. Not exactly close on this track, though, and Verstappen’s lead over Sainz in second is more than two tenths...
04:14 PM BST
Q1 - Here's the current order
Only half the field have set a representative lap time.
04:12 PM BST
Q1 - Session resumes
We get going again with a little under 12 minutes on the clock. Hamilton has also had his lap deleted for a track limits infringement.
04:12 PM BST
Q1 - Piastri had gone fastest in the mean time, by the way
Then Perez, Magnussen, Stroll and Leclerc. Looks like Verstappen had his lap time deleted so is yet to get on the board officially.
04:08 PM BST
Q1 - Bottas gets it going again
So we should be able to resume the session with 11min49sec on the clock fairly promptly.
04:07 PM BST
Q1 - RED FLAG
Bottas spun on the exit of turn one, perhaps distracted by a car ahead of him that was right in the middle of the road. Shouldn’t spin just because of that, though he takes a while to get started and in the mean time the red flag comes out.
04:06 PM BST
Q1 - Yellow flags
Bottas has spun, but is he able to get going again? It doesn’t seem like it. Not yet.
Meanwhile, Hamilton’s lap time was not that great at all: only good enough for 12th, 1.533sec off the pace.
04:05 PM BST
Q1 - Hamilton backs up to start his first flying lap
A fair bit of optimism around Mercedes this weekend, so let’s see what Hamilton can do.
16.652s in the first sector. That’s merely ok.
04:04 PM BST
Q1 - Verstappen pulls out an early blinder
A 1:05.190, which is 0.720sec faster than Oscar Piastri in second. Perez in third, 0.720sec off his team-mate’s time.
Leclerc down in sixth as Norris has a lap time deleted for track limits, as does Sainz.
04:03 PM BST
Q1 - The two Haas cars set early lap times
A 1:06.006 for Magnussen and a 1:06.040 for Hulkenberg.
04:02 PM BST
Q1 - Sergio Perez needs a good weekend
He is about to start his first hot lap and begins with 16.608 in the first sector... slower than Hulkenberg by a tenth...
04:01 PM BST
Q1 - The grandstands have filled up
Wouldn’t say there were exactly packed yet, but it is only Friday.
04:00 PM BST
GREEN LIGHT: Q1 begins!
20 drivers in, a lot of traffic and five drivers to be eliminated.
03:58 PM BST
Conditions at the track
Track temperature: 42.9c
Air temperature: 27.9
Wind speed: 0.6m/s
Humidity: 37.0 per cent
03:53 PM BST
Shouldn’t see any rain in this session, although there are a few showers in the vicinity of the Styrian hills that surround the track.
03:43 PM BST
Winners at the Red Bull Ring since F1 returned in 2014
2014 Nico Rosberg
2015 Nico Rosberg
2016 Lewis Hamilton
2017 Valtteri Bottas
2018 Max Verstappen
2019 Max Verstappen
2020 Valtteri Bottas
2020 (Styrian GP) Lewis Hamilton
2021 (Styrian GP) Max Verstappen
2021 Max Verstappen
2022 Charles Leclerc
03:37 PM BST
03:34 PM BST
How does each driver stack up against his team-mate in qualifying?
03:29 PM BST
Average qualifying position so far this year
It’s a bit more mixed up than you might think.
03:27 PM BST
How fast have the teams been in qualifying so far this season?
03:21 PM BST
First practice recap
Max Verstappen ended first practice for Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix fastest, ahead of the two Ferraris of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc.
Verstappen, who has won on this track four times, carries a healthy lead over his Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez and will be expected to extend that this weekend.
Ferrari, who were in contention for the championship at this point last year, have struggled this year – not just compared to Red Bull but to Aston Martin and Mercedes, too.
The Italian team, though, come into this weekend with an upgraded car which they hope will propel them closer to the front. Sainz was 0.241sec off Verstappen’s fastest time whilst Leclerc was 0.270sec away.
Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton was fourth, a shade over half a second off the pace, with Sergio Perez fifth and Lance Stroll sixth.
Fernando Alonso was eighth for Aston Martin with the other Mercedes of George Russell in ninth.
03:16 PM BST
Qualifying gets under way in a little over 45 minutes from the Red Bull Ring. We’ll be here for all the build-up and live action. It has clouded over a little and there is a small chance of rain, but I would not get my hopes up for anything substantially wet.
01:33 PM BST
FP1 - Classification
01:31 PM BST
FP1 ends - Verstappen fastest
It was looking like it would be a Ferrari 1-2 but then along comes Max Verstappen with a 1:05.742 to knock them down to second and third.
01:29 PM BST
FP1 - Sainz leads Verstappen, Leclerc and Hamilton
Perez in fifth and only 0.178sec down on Verstappen seems like a good result, especially given he has been ill.
01:26 PM BST
FP1 - I think a few different run-plans today
Times are a bit mixed up even between teams. Alonso is another driver who has not yet run on the soft tyres, just the mediums. He is currently seventh, 0.673sec off Sainz’s fastest time of 1:05.983.
01:24 PM BST
FP1 - Sainz now tops the timesheets
He was on the soft tyres for that lap. Hamilton now fourth, 0.268sec off Sainz.
01:23 PM BST
FP1 - Verstappen now fastest
He, like Perez, is on the medium tyres rather than the softs.
01:22 PM BST
FP1 - Bottas runs wide, collecting a bit of gravel
Hamilton and Alonso now on the soft tyres, as is Leclerc - who goes fastest by 0.053sec over Perez, who had just completed a lap on the medium tyres.
01:20 PM BST
FP1 - Stroll has moved into second
0.134sec off Hamilton’s fastest time.
01:18 PM BST
FP1 - A bit of debris on the track
Not sure from what. A car, obviously, and probably from a car running wide on the kerbs.
12 minutes remain.
01:16 PM BST
FP1 - Piastri into sixth on the soft tyres
0.393sec off Hamilton’s fastest time. None of the top hitters have yet bolted on the fastest tyre. Well, unless you count Lance Stroll.
01:13 PM BST
FP1 - Not a great deal of action at the moment
Not the most eventful practice session, either. A couple of drivers bolting on the soft tyres now, thankfully.
01:07 PM BST
FP1 - 24 mins remain
No real soft tyre running yet aside from the two Williams cars. Hamilton still leads the way from Verstappen, Alonso, Perez, Albon and Stroll. Yuki Tsunoda in seventh with a decent lap. I think he’s having a good season, really. A bit under the radar, perhaps, but still impressive.
01:00 PM BST
FP1 - Ferrari watch
They are currently 16th and 17th... but I do not think that is remotely representative. Trying something else on the hard tyres, most likely, assessing their upgrades.
01:00 PM BST
FP1 - Albon into fifth, albeit on the soft tyres
He had the fastest first sector time of anyone before dropping off a bit.
12:58 PM BST
FP1 - Hamilton's best lap was on the hard tyres too
Replay of Sergio Perez getting his rear end very wide at turn three.
Russell is beginning a lap on the hard tyres. He’s 0.885sec slower than Hamilton after one sector. Somehow I don’t think they are on the same fuel load.
12:55 PM BST
FP1 - Hamilton goes fastest
He posts a 1:06.416, just 0.182sec faster than Verstappen.
12:53 PM BST
FP1 - How they stand with 37 mins remaining
A bit quieter on track now.
12:51 PM BST
FP1 - Hamilton running wide over the kerbs at the end of the lap
He’s pushing a bit, it seems. George Russell, his team-mate at Mercedes, is currently down in 12th, 0.933sec off Verstappen’s time.
12:48 PM BST
FP1 - 42 mins left
Verstappen says something is loose on the right-rear endplate but he doesn’t know what it is. Worth noting that, as tight as it is at the top, Verstappen has done all his laps on the hard compound tyre whilst others have mixed it up a bit. Albeit not Hamilton.
12:46 PM BST
FP1 - Hamilton improves
He stays third but is now just 0.144sec off Verstappen’s time. Alonso has just moved into second, 0.058sec off Verstappen. The timing screens here a little off, though.
12:43 PM BST
FP1 - Hamilton showing some good pace
He has just gone fastest of anyone in sector one...
— Formula 1 (@F1) June 30, 2023
12:41 PM BST
FP1 - Verstappen improves his time
Here’s the current top 10:
12:37 PM BST
FP1 - Alonso runs wide at turn four
Not sure if that was on his fast lap or not. He was pushing, probably cost him a tenth or so but just managed to avoid dropping a wheel into the gravel.
12:36 PM BST
FP1 - Perez improves his time
Alonso was briefly into second place but has now been beaten by Ocon and Verstappen.
12:35 PM BST
FP1 - Perez goes fastest
He was not at the track yesterday but is now half a second faster than Verstappen, for what it’s worth. Not a great deal, to be honest.
12:33 PM BST
FP1 - 57 mins remain
Verstappen goes fastest with a 1:08.094, which is 0.297sec ahead of Valtteri Bottas. 18 cars currently on track.
12:30 PM BST
Green light: FP1 begins!
A fair few cars out there already including Hamilton, Verstappen and Russell.
12:20 PM BST
Austrian GP fans hit with alcohol ban after Lewis Hamilton condemns ‘disgusting’ behaviour
Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen have urged Formula One fans at the Austrian Grand Prix to act responsibly to avoid a repeat of last year’s behaviour that left the seven-time champion “disgusted and disappointed”.
The 2022 event was marred by claims of physical and verbal harassment of female fans as well as homophobic slurs reported on social media.
It is understood that extra security measures are in place at the Red Bull Ring this weekend as a response to the events which blighted last year’s edition.
12:13 PM BST
Mercedes face another Austrian GP acid test – but there is belief this race will be different
Last year they came to Austria in a buoyant mood after a promising showing at Silverstone the previous week. But qualifying ended in the barriers for both men and they ended well down on winner Charles Leclerc. So what is different this weekend?
12:05 PM BST
Current constructor standings
12:01 PM BST
Current driver standings: Top 10
11:15 AM BST
Good morning F1 fans
Welcome to our coverage for first – and only – practice for the 2023 Austrian Grand Prix, as well as qualifying which takes place later in the day. This is the second “sprint event” weekend of a total of six this year, so the format is slightly different to the normal set-up as well as different to what we had in 2022 and 2021.
For those who need remining: Friday has first practice and then qualifying for the grand prix later in the day. Then on Saturday we have the standalone sprint action. This consists of a three-part qualifying session with elimination in parts one and two, which sets the grid for the sprint race later in the day. It is, however, slightly shorter than the “usual” grand prix qualifying.
The sprint is around one-third of a race distance and championship points are awarded for the top eight finishers. This no longer sets the grid for Sunday’s race, so the sprint has in effect become a standalone championship event.
Anyway, what to expect from the Red Bull Ring? Well, Red Bull have won every race this season and had an excellent record at their home track even before they became F1’s pre-eminent force. Max Verstappen has won here four times in total, with three of those Austrian GP wins and one a Styrian Grand Prix.
Sadly, Sergio Perez’s form has dropped off dramatically and now trails by an enormous margin at this stage. He is still second in the standings but is much closer to Fernando Alonso in third than he is to his team-mate up ahead. The extra worry is that he has been ill this weekend and did not attend the track on Thursday, staying in his accommodation with the aim of recovering.
It will, as ever, be interesting to see the three teams immediately behind Red Bull, with both Mercedes drivers saying they are “excited” about the future and Aston Martin (or at least Fernando Alonso, anyway) on the up. First practice might give us some clue about that, but the compressed weekend format helps with the unpredictability at least.
First practice here begins at 12.30pm BST and we will be here for all the updates.