Liam Lawson took an untroubled pole position for the first DTM race of the weekend at the Red Bull Ring after setting an early benchmark in his AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3 that couldn’t be bettered.
Setting his lap early, the New Zealander could sit back and watch his rivals do their best to try and topple the Red Bull-sponsored driver in what was a fast and furious qualifying session which saw many places lower down the top ten change hands but, crucially for Lawson, not at the very top.
His nearest rival was Mercedes-AMG Team HRT’s Maxi Götz, who was initially 0.378sec down to the Ferrari after the first wave of running in second and looked like he was going fast enough to trouble for pole on his second run but fell just short, his best time a 1m28.122sec – 0.271sec down.
The battle for third wasn’t decided until the very last lap of the 20-minute session as Arjun Maini charged his way up the field. Sitting sixth at the halfway mark, he first put in a lap that got him back up to sixth after cars behind started to improve, and then put in a storming lap in his GetSpeed Mercedes-AMG GT3 to put himself onto the second-row, 0.389sec off Lawson’s benchmark.
Maini was fortunate to retain third, though, as Sheldon van der Linde built on his early pace and stormed up to fourth, only 0.001sec slower than Maini around the undulating Red Bull Ring. Indeed, in a sign of how tight the action could be come the race, Philip Ellis was just 0.010sec back in his Winward Mercedes.
Alex Albon was the last driver in the session to take the chequered flag and he used his relatively clear air to qualify in sixth, just a fraction ahead of Walkenhorst Motorsport’s Marco Wittmann.
Series leader Kelvin van der Linde could only qualify in eighth, 0.486sec off the pole, after electing to sit out the final four minutes of qualifying to preserve his Michelin tyres for the opening stint of the first race.
Two Mercedes-AMGs rounded out the top ten, with Vincent Abril out-qualifying Maxi Buhk by 0.003sec.
The only incident of note in the session came right at the very end, as Maximilian Paul – the ADAC GT Masters racer guesting for his T3 Motorsport team in a third Lamborghini Huracán – lost the rear of his car going into turn ten and hit the barriers. The stream suggested the damage should be repairable ahead of the opening race, where he should line up 16th.
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