Lewis Hamilton and George Russell both crashed out of qualifying for Saturday’s sprint race at the Austrian Grand Prix on a desperate evening for Mercedes.
As Max Verstappen took pole with Charles Leclerc second and Carlos Sainz third, Russell and Hamilton are due to line up fifth and 10th on the grid respectively, subject to penalties for changes to their wrecked machines.
Hamilton was the first in the wall. With just five minutes of Q3 remaining, Hamilton wrestled with his Silver Arrows through the left-hand seventh corner in Spielberg before sliding off through the gravel and into tyre barrier.
The seven-time world champion apologised to his team. “I am so sorry, guys,” he said before he was taken away in the medical car.
Hamilton was told by stand-in race engineer Marcus Dudley that his lap appeared good enough to put him in the top three.
Qualifying was suspended for 11 minutes to recover Hamilton’s wounded Mercedes – the British driver sustaining extensive damage to the front-right of his car – but moments after it re-started, Russell was off the track.
As he attacked the final bend, Russell’s Mercedes fell away from him and he slammed into the barrier.
“That came out of nowhere,” said Russell before he walked back to the pits.
A second red flag was deployed, leading to a frenetic conclusion with Verstappen taking the spoils.
The Red Bull Ring is the stage for Formula One’s second of three sprint rounds this season.
Tomorrow’s 24-lap dash to the chequered flag sets the grid for Sunday’s main event which marks the halfway point of this season’s 22-round campaign.
It is effectively a home race for Verstappen after 60,000 Dutch fans embarked on the nine-hour drive from Amsterdam to fill the 105,000-capacity arena.
Orange smoke drifted over the 2.7-mile 10-corner track as the travelling contingent lit flares in support of the world champion.
And the Orange Army revelled in Hamilton’s accident, and then Verstappen’s pole lap as he edged out Leclerc by just 0.029 seconds. Sergio Perez finished fourth with Esteban Ocon sixth.
Sebastian Vettel is sporting a helmet here which says “save the bees”, and the four-time world champion was stung when his best lap was deleted for exceeding track limits.
He will line up in last position for Saturday’s race.
“I am afraid we are out,” Vettel was told over the radio. “Yeah I saw,” he replied. “Argh, man, that is painful.”
These are dark times for Aston Martin, with Vettel’s team-mate Lance Stroll also eliminated in Q1.
The son of the team’s billionaire owner, Lawrence Stroll, finished 17th, one place ahead of Zhou Guanyu.
Zhou was involved in one of the sport’s most extraordinary crashes of recent memory when he was flipped upside down and catapulted into the catch fencing at the opening Abbey corner of last Sunday’s British Grand Prix.
The Chinese rookie, who admitted he does not know how he survived the accident, was back in his Alfa Romeo on Friday and qualified 18th.
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