Max Verstappen pips Lando Norris to pole in Austria, Hamilton fourth
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SPIELBERG – Formula One leader Max Verstappen put his Red Bull on pole position for the Austrian Grand Prix on Saturday, with title rival Lewis Hamilton managing only fourth on the grid for Mercedes.
McLaren's Lando Norris joined Verstappen on the front row, a sensational career high for the young Briton, with Verstappen's Mexican team mate Sergio Perez qualifying third at the scenic Red Bull Ring.
The pole was Verstappen's third in a row and set him up perfectly for a hat-trick of wins after winning the Styrian Grand Prix last Sunday and the French race the previous weekend.
The 23-year-old is 18 points clear of seven-time world champion Hamilton after eight races, with Red Bull chasing a fifth successive victory to pull further ahead in both championships.
Verstappen's pole lap of one minute 03.720 seconds was only 0.048 faster than Norris's effort, Mercedes-powered McLaren's first front row since 2012.
"I think Q3 was pretty bad. I'm of course happy to be first but not the way we got it," said Verstappen of the tight margin, with Norris quicker all the way to turn nine but just missing out at the end.
"Of course to be twice on pole here nevertheless is very good. Hopefully we can finish it off tomorrow."
The Dutchman was cheered on by the biggest crowd of a COVID-19 affected season, the majority in orange shirts -- although Norris, whose car is papaya orange, jokingly questioned their allegiance.
"I feel epic," said the Briton. "It was probably one of my best laps I've done.
"The fans are cool here, everyone in orange supporting McLaren, not Max. It's cool to have them back. I know tomorrow's race is going to be tough but we did the best job we could today."