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Verstappen takes Austrian sprint pole, misery for Mercedes

Max Verstappen claimed pole for the Austrian Grand Prix sprint race as Friday qualifying proved a double disaster for Mercedes.

Both Lewis Hamilton and George Russell crashed in the top-10 shoot-out at the Spielberg circuit, owned by Verstappen’s Red Bull team.

The world champion is joined on the front row of Saturday’s 100km sprint by the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc.

On the second row are his teammate Carlos Sainz, fresh from his maiden win at Silverstone last weekend, and Sergio Perez in the other Red Bull.

Hamilton made a rare mistake to smash into the barrier at turn seven on a fast lap with five and a half minutes of Q3 left.

He was soon out of his car, walking back to the pits.

After a red flag period as his mashed up Mercedes was lifted off the circuit the session restarted.

But not for long, as Russell then exited stage left, at turn 10, to leave Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff staring bleakly at his TV monitor.

With eight cars left to battle it out for pole Verstappen took the honours with a time of 1min 05.852sec.

“It was a very long wait between the two runs and that’s never great. Once you’re in the rhythm, it’s nice to just keep on going,” said Verstappen.

“But of course, very happy with pole; but I also know that tomorrow and Sunday, you can get the points,” he added.

Verstappen has a superb record at the track, winning four of the last six including both held at the picturesque circuit in the Styrian mountains in 2021.

Saturday’s sprint will shape the grid for Sunday’s race, the 11th round of the world championship which Verstappen leads by 34 points from Perez.

Russell had done enough before his exit to post the fifth fastest time with Esteban Ocon (Alpine) in sixth, ahead of Kevin Magnussen and fellow Haas driver Mick Schumacher in seventh and eighth, Fernando Alonso and Hamilton completing the top 10. 

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