Charles Leclerc stayed cool in the heat to claim a convincing pole position for Ferrari with a track record lap on Saturday, outpacing Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes by two-tenths of a second.
The 21-year-old Monegasque clocked his best lap of one minute and 3.003 seconds in the final seconds of a dramatic session that saw his Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel unable to run due to an air pressure problem.
Max Verstappen, backed by an ‘orange army’ of fans in the steaming Styrian Alps, was third for Red Bull ahead of Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas who had taken pole for the last two years.
Defending five-time champion Hamilton struggled for outright speed and faced a stewards’ inquiry after the session following an incident in Q1 when he appeared to obstruct Kimi Raikkonen.
Kevin Magnussen wound up in fifth place for Haas, but will take a five-place grid penalty for taking a new gearbox, ahead of British rookie Lando Norris of McLaren, Raikkonen and his Alfa Romeo team-mate Antonio Giovinazzi.
Under-pressure Frenchman Pierre Gasly was ninth in the second Red Bull and Vettel 10th, but he will start from ninth, at least, following the penalties.
“The car felt amazing,” said a delighted Leclerc, having claimed his second career pole – following his success in Bahrain.
“I struggled in P1, but after some changes we did well and I’m happy to bring pole home.
“Tomorrow, we have to finish the job.”
Ferrari are without a win this season or since the 2018 United States Grand Prix won by Raikkonen and seek to end Mercedes’ record run of eight season-opening triumphs and 10 victories in succession.
Hamilton said: “Congratulations to Charles. He’s been quick all weekend…. It’s cool to see three different teams as the top three and I get to fight the young ones tomorrow.”
Verstappen praised the support he received from his countrymen. “It’s so great and it brings a smile to my face… With our upgrades, the car seems to be working better and this is an amazing result for us.”