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Austrian GP: Lewis Hamilton loses out to Valtteri Bottas for pole

Sunday’s race is live on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra and the BBC Sport website

Valtteri Bottas pipped team-mate Lewis Hamilton in a tight fight for pole position at the Austrian Grand Prix.

The Finn was just 0.019 seconds quicker than the world champion, who made a mistake on his first run and just failed to match Bottas on his second.

Hamilton’s title rival Sebastian Vettel, of Ferrari, was third but 0.334secs behind.

Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen took fourth ahead of the Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo, who appeared to be having a dispute during the session.

Who, me? Bottas is actually quite good around Austria – this is his second pole. Last year he won from the top spot

Bottas the star for once

Bottas blitzed the first runs in the top 10 shootout, while both Hamilton and Vettel made errors.

The Finn was nearly 0.5secs clear of Hamilton after the Briton ran wide at Turn Three, the second hairpin, and lost speed all the way down the following straight.

Vettel also ran wide and lost time – but in his case at Turn Four.

Hamilton put it together on his second run but was on the back foot and Bottas improved anyway to move the goalposts even further ahead.

Vettel and the Mercedes are starting on different types of tyres after Hamilton and Bottas chose to make it through Q2 on the super-softs, while Vettel will use the grippier ultra-softs off the line.

It was that combination that led to Vettel getting a better start than both Mercedes cars in France last weekend, and then colliding with Bottas when he had to back out of a challenge at the first corner.

Vettel also has to hope he is not penalised for holding up Renault’s Carlos Sainz during qualifying, for which he is under investigation.

Red Bull tension

Red Bull were struggling for pace on their home track, with Verstappen fifth and Ricciardo seventh, split by Haas driver Romain Grosjean.

But there appeared to be tension on track as Ricciardo seemed to slow at one point in Q3 to try to let Verstappen by, but the Dutchman refused the invitation.

Ricciardo was then heard on the radio saying: “There is no point me running. I’m just punching a hole.” It was an apparent reference to the proximity between the two cars on track and the Australian being close enough to give Verstappen a slipstream, which would be an advantage.

Later, Verstappen, again running behind Ricciardo at the start of their second runs, was heard saying on the radio: “What is going on?”

He was told by his engineer Gianpiero Lambiese: “Just overtake him, mate.”

Verstappen replied: “No. Last weekend I was in front and now he is in front.”

He was again told to overtake him, and Verstappen replied: “No. Discipline.”

Ricciardo was angry because the team decided the drivers would do three runs in Q3, and he was ahead for all three.

The pot has been boiling in the Red Bull camp since Verstappen joined the team in mid-2016

The aftermath

The Australian said: “I knew I was going to be first but my argument was, having three runs, at least give me one run when I am not first. I can be disadvantaged for two, but give me one where I got something.

“Every weekend we swap. One car goes first. This time it was me. But at least give me one. I don’t want to think too much into it. It just a simple question – why couldn’t I have at least one run, which was fair? Or give me with a tow one run.

“Call it luck of the draw because it’s my turn this weekend to be first, fair enough I’ll take it, but why all three? I was just bleeding lap time on the straight and 0.2secs is 0.2secs. You’ve got to push back, and I feel this weekend is worth pushing back for.”

Verstappen said the drivers take it in turns and that he had to punch the hole for Ricciardo in France; this week it was Ricciardo’s turn to return the favour.

“Why is he frustrated? He did all weekend in Paul Ricard in qualifying and we always swap around. Paul Ricard I was ahead. Canada I was behind. And next weekend I’ll be in front again. I understand it is not nice, but it was also not nice for me in Paul Ricard.

“It was very clear what the team wanted and what they said before qualifying and I stick with that.”

Verstappen ended up 0.156secs quicker than Ricciardo, behind whom the second Haas of Kevin Magnussen and the Renaults of Sainz and Nico Hulkenberg completed the top 10.

Two great names struggling

McLaren had another difficult day. Fernando Alonso looked as if he could have qualified in around 11th or 12th place but he ran wide on his final run in second qualifying at the final two corners, damaging his front wing and failing to improve on his earlier time.

That left the Spaniard 14th, while team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne ended up 16th, failing to progress beyond first qualifying, when he was nearly 0.3secs slower than Alonso.

A Williams made it out of Q1 for the first time since the Monaco Grand Prix, Lance Stroll qualifying 15th, and giving a little whoop of delight as he was told of his time at the end of the first session.

All three men will be promoted one place on the grid as a result of a five-place penalty for an unauthorised gearbox change for Sauber’s Charles Leclerc, who qualified 13th.

Hamilton arrived for qualifying on his motorbike, before promptly choking his fans – to their delight

What they said

Valtteri Bottas: “The whole weekend we have been making good progress with the set-up. The car felt so good and in the last run I knew there was 0.1secs I could improve on the first run and I managed to find it. Apparently I needed it.”

Lewis Hamilton: “Not too bad. I am happy with it. Valtteri did a stunning lap on the first run and I did a little mistake and that kind of ended the run. This is a great result for the team and Valtteri deserved it today.”

The Austrian GP takes place in the dramatic surroundings of the Styrian mountains

Botta has two, Hamilton one, but who has the most poles in Austria? Countryman Niki Lauda, with three – but he never won come race day. Source: Forix

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