Charles Leclerc takes pole position for the Austrian Grand Prix

June 30 2019 , 12:58 pm

Leclerc, 21, set two laps quick enough for pole and ended the session 0.259 seconds clear of Hamilton.

The Mercedes driver was subsequently penalised for “unnecessarily impeding” Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen is promoted to second place and the other Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas to third.

Hamilton will line up in fourth place rather than fifth after other grid penalties are taken into account.

Britain’s Lando Norris will start in fifth, the McLaren rookie initially having qualified in sixth but the beneficiary of a five-place drop for Haas’ Kevin Magnussen, who requires a gearbox change.

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel failed to go out in the final part of qualifying because of problem with the air-pressure line to his engine and his team had to withdraw him after failing to fix it in time. He will start ninth.

“I’m extremely happy,” Leclerc said. “We have been competitive since second practice but it is always difficult to do the lap at the time. It is just a shame for Seb. We should have two cars close to one and two.”

Hamilton’s edginess in the car was down to a lack of pace for Mercedes – particularly on the straights – and his engineers failing to put him out behind other cars so he could benefit from a slipstream.

“Positioning was so difficult,” he said. “I was always at the front and never getting the slipstream. Luckily on the last run I got a decent position.”

Getting a tow from another car was key for Mercedes in Austria to minimise Ferrari’s advantage on the straights. It has also a key part of qualifying at some races in 2019, after regulation changes to make the front and rear wings bigger significantly increased drag.

Three drivers from three different teams in the first three positions sets up a tantalising prospect, especially as Leclerc will start on the faster, soft tyres, and Verstappen and Bottas – as well as Hamilton – will be on the slower but more durable mediums.

Hamilton added: “The Ferraris are quick on the long runs, not only the short runs. I’ll give it everything I have. If I can stay in the tow, maybe we will be able to offset each other [on strategy].

“If they start on that tyre, I tend to think they are going for a two unless that tyre goes longer than we anticipate. A one- and two-stop is very close and how you work them will be interesting.”

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