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Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu Zhou during qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix. Photo: Reuters

Formula One: Zhou Guanyu ‘frustrated’ on return but says ‘everything is possible’ in Austrian Grand Prix sprint race

  • China’s Zhou will start sprint from 18th place after disappointing qualifying session with Alfa Romeo
  • ‘We have to just figure out what went wrong in this session and improve on that,’ the 23-year-old says

Zhou Guanyu experienced a “frustrating” return to the track following his horror crash last weekend, with the Chinese rookie to line up 18th for Saturday’s sprint race at the Austrian Grand Prix.

Just five days after he was hit early at Silverstone with his car flipping upside down and being flung over a barrier, the 23-year-old Alfa Romeo driver got back behind the wheel at the Red Bull Ring having passed a series of medical checks.

But he did not have much joy in Friday evening’s qualifying session, and will have plenty of work to do.

“It was quite frustrating from my side, with a short track like this,” Zhou said. “The tyre was actually working in lap two much better, so my first thing I was improving like six times in lap two.

“The last run we just tried to stick with one lap, so it was a bit risky, even though I improved the lap time a tiny bit, but no grip on the tyre.”

Zhou Guanyu drives his Alfa Romeo car during qualifying at the Red Bull Ring. Photo: AFP

Zhou had just one hour-long practice session to try and get the new car dialled in, too, with qualifying held straight after P1.

A second practice session will take place on Saturday, before the 24-lap sprint race to determine the order of Sunday’s grid, with points awarded for the top eight finishers.

“Just having one session to get ready this morning, to make sure everything is ready, is not the easiest thing,” Zhou said. “But everything seems to be working fine. Just lacking a bit of the performance so far today.”

Zhou Guanyu cleared for Austrian GP, admits ‘I don’t know how I survived’

Zhou insisted he will be looking to make up a few positions in the sprint for the actual grid start for Sunday.

“It’s my second time experiencing this – last time I didn’t get to do the sprint race, so hopefully we have a good one tomorrow and pass a little bit up for Sunday,” he said.

“I think everything’s possible but we have to just figure out what went wrong in this session and improve on that.”

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen celebrates after qualifying on pole for the sprint race. Photo: Reuters

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen will start Saturday’s sprint from pole after edging out his two Ferrari rivals by less than one-tenth in qualifying.

The championship leader clocked a time of 1 minute and 4.984 seconds around the 4.218-kilometres Red Bull Ring on Friday amid a sea of orange from the many fans from his native Netherlands.

He was a mere .029 of a second clear of Charles Leclerc and just .082 ahead of Carlos Sainz who won last Sunday in Britain.

Verstappen won the first sprint in Italy, with a third such race scheduled for later in the season in Brazil. He leads the championship by 34 points from teammate Sergio Perez and 43 from Leclerc.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in action during qualifying. Photo: Reuters

“I am quite happy with pole but also tomorrow and Sunday you can get the points,” the reigning champion said.

“I think we have a great car. Normal qualifying is not our strongest point so I just hope to have a clean turn one, a good getaway. From there anything can happen but I am confident in the car we have.”

Leclerc said: “I think all three were very, very close. In the last lap, I struggled a little bit bringing the tyres back after such a long time in the pits.

“Max was just a little bit quicker but hopefully we’ll have an exciting race tomorrow.”

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen (centre) with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc (left) and Carlos Sainz. Photo: Reuters

Perez had all his Q3 lap times deleted because of a track limits breach in Q2, motorsport governing body FIA said. The concerned lap time in Q2 was also deleted, meaning the Mexican driver will start the sprint race from 13th.

“Perez left the track at Turn 8 on his last flying lap of Q2, just prior to the end of the session,” the decision document stated. The incident had not be identified until the moment before Q3 started, the FIA said.

Several drivers had times deleted through all three stages of qualifying with confirmation coming after they completed the illegal laps.

Mercedes, meanwhile, met disaster when first Lewis Hamilton in turn 7 and then George Russell in turn 10 lost control and crashed into the barriers – with Q3 action red flagged on both occasions.

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton after crashing during qualifying. Photo: Reuters

Because of Perez’s deleted times, Russell will start from fourth on Saturday and seven-time world champion Hamilton from ninth. Hamilton was taken to the medical centre for a check-up but returned swiftly to the pits, seemingly without any injuries.

Russell was also summoned by the stewards after the session for entering the track on foot after the crash, but received only a warning.

Mick Schumacher of Haas, who secured his maiden points in Silverstone last weekend, will start from seventh.