Valtteri Bottas pips teammate Lewis Hamilton to start F1 season on pole in Austria


Finland’s Valtteri Bottas will start the Formula One season on pole position after denying Mercedes team mate and six-times world champion Lewis Hamilton the top slot in Austria on Saturday.

The front-row lockout by Mercedes equalled Ferrari’s record of 65, and the “Black Arrows” were in a private duel at the scenic Red Bull Ring.

“It feels really good, I’ve missed this feeling,” said Bottas of a third career Austrian GP pole after 2017 and 2018, and one secured despite going into the gravel on his final flying lap.

“Our team have done an amazing job, we seem to be in our own league.”

Hamilton was a mere 0.012 slower than the Finn’s time of one minute 02.939 seconds, set on his first run, after lapping fastest in all three practice sessions at the scenic Red Bull Ring.

“The car was great, I just didn’t manage to put the greatest laps together,” said the Briton.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, winner of the past two races at his team’s home circuit, qualified third but as the sole driver in the top 10 on the medium tyres.

McLaren’s Lando Norris, at 20 the youngest man in the race, will line up an impressive fourth.

Ferrari struggled, however, with four-times champion Sebastian Vettel failing to reach the final phase of qualifying and starting 11th while Charles Leclerc, on pole last year, ended up seventh on the grid.

“Of course, it’s a surprise, we thought we had a little bit more in hand but it seems the others were probably running a little bit more fuel or were more conservative in practice,” Vettel said.

“I wasn’t so happy with the car, more oversteer in entry than I would like. But we will see, I think tomorrow is a different picture.”

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