Verstappen on pole for Austrian GP, Hamilton extends Mercedes deal - GulfToday

Verstappen on pole for Austrian GP, Hamilton extends Mercedes deal


Red Bull’s Max Verstappen drives during the qualifying session of the Formula One Austrian Grand Prix on Saturday. Agence France-Presse

Red Bull’s world championship leader Max Verstappen will start on pole for the Austrian Grand Prix after edging out Lando Norris for McLaren in qualifying on Saturday.

Verstappen’s third pole in a row puts him in a strong position to stretch his 18 point lead over Lewis Hamilton in Sunday’s ninth race of the Formula One season.

“Hopefully we can finish it off tomorrow,” said the 23-year-old, who was cheered on by a sea of Dutch fans at the first Grand Prix weekend to welcome back a capacity crowd since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Dutch driver’s teammate Sergio Perez will start on the second row alongside Hamilton’s Mercedes at the Red Bull-owned Spielberg circuit.

Verstappen topped the time sheets in Q1 and Q2, and then nailed the prime seat in the grid with a flying lap of 1min 03.720sec in Q3.

He won from pole in France and last weekend’s Styrian Grand Prix at his team’s home circuit, and with Monza and Monaco already ticked off win number five of the campaign looks his to lose.

That is certainly how Hamilton rates his prospects of stopping the Red Bull charge to the 2021 world title.

“I would say a win is out of the question,” said Hamilton, whose last success was back in Barcelona in early May.

The seven-time world champion reckoned Red Bull “have improved their car again this weekend”.

“So that’s an easy cruise win for Max,” he forecast. “Maybe we can just try and get ahead of at least Sergio Perez and limit the damage this weekend.”

Hamilton signed a new two-year contract extension up to 2023 with Mercedes earlier on Saturday.

Hamilton, 36, has won six of his seven F1 titles with the outfit since joining them in 2013.

Together they have dominated the sport for the past seven years. Mercedes have won the constructors’ championship every season since 2014 with Hamilton winning six of the last seven drivers’ titles.

Hamilton will reportedly earn £40 million (55 million dollars) a year under the new deal.

“It is hard to believe it’s been nearly nine years working with this incredible team and I’m excited we’re going to continue our partnership for two more years,” Hamilton said in a statement.

“We’ve accomplished so much together but we still have a lot to achieve, both on and off the track.”

He has been urging the Silver Arrows to introduce upgrades to keep pace with Red Bull.

“It will be even more of a challenge than last week. We continue to lack pace, we tried everything to get more out of the car. We have got to find performance in the next races,” he said.

Agence France-Presse

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