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Formula 1 Austrian GP

Verstappen's Austrian GP qualifying gap a "reality check" for F1 rivals

Amid ever-tightening margins at the front in Formula 1, Verstappen's huge pole gap around Austria's short lap left rivals scratching their heads

Pole man Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, celebrates in Parc Ferme

Pole man Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, celebrates in Parc Ferme

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

Max Verstappen's advantage in Austrian Grand Prix qualifying was a "reality check for everyone", admitted McLaren's Oscar Piastri.
After what looked like a finely poised weekend between Verstappen and the two McLarens, coming off the back of a competitive run of races where both cars looked fairly equal, Verstappen ran out a convincing pole winner at the Red Bull Ring by putting four tenths on Piastri's team-mate Lando Norris.
Mercedes duo George Russell and Lewis Hamilton were split by the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz, following another tenth behind the dominant Dutchman.
Piastri, who qualified seventh after losing a lap that would have put him third on the grid, admitted that he was shocked when he saw Verstappen suddenly making giant improvements in Q2, which he then backed up in Q3.
"A little bit, yeah. His lap in Q2 was a bit of a reality check for everyone," the Australian said. "And he could repeat it in Q3.
"The gap seemed to be a little bit bigger in that session for whatever reason and clearly they are still the force to beat.
Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL38

Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL38

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

"Max looked to be a step ahead of everyone then. But it seems very tight between us Mercedes and Ferrari, I would say."
Fifth-placed qualifier Hamilton said the difference Verstappen and the Red Bull can make in high-speed corners is "insane", but wasn't totally surprised by their ability to turn up the pace in qualifying.
"We were down a lot in the high speed compared to Max, it's insane how much faster they are in the high speed," he said.
"I think they were 12-13kph faster which is a lot. I wouldn't say I am surprised. We always seem to be quick in FP1 and practice and then everyone else gets faster and we don't. That's how it goes."
When asked where his turn of speed came from, Verstappen said he felt connected to the car in a way he hadn't felt in recent races.
"Of course, it's a short lap and the gap was quite big. But on the other hand, I also felt really good with the car and the balance was there," he explained.
"Then you can really push and attack the corners and I guess that then made it such a gap. It's been a while that I've felt like this in the car.
"The last few races I've always been very close in front or behind, so this was definitely very positive, for the team."
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