MO­TOR RAC­ING

Bot­tas beats Vet­tel to claim Aus­trian GP pole

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Valtteri Bot­tas up­staged both ti­tle pro­tag­o­nists yes­ter­day by claim­ing his second pole po­si­tion for Mercedes in a tense qual­i­fy­ing ses­sion for to­day’s Aus­trian Grand Prix. The Finn clocked a best lap of one minute and 4.251 sec­onds to out­pace cham­pi­onship leader Se­bas­tian Vet­tel of Fer­rari by four hun­dredths of a second. Bri­ton Lewis Hamil­ton, who trails Vet­tel by 14 points in the ti­tle race, was third fastest in the second Mercedes, but will start the race from eighth on the grid due to a five-place penalty for an un­sched­uled gear­box change. The ses­sion ended in some dis­ar­ray when French­man Ro­main Gros­jean stopped his Haas out on the track to bring out a se­ries of yel­low flags that pre­vented any fi­nal fast laps.

“I en­joyed it to­day and the car was get­ting bet­ter and bet­ter,” said Bot­tas. “I had a de­cent lap and I am look­ing for­ward to Sun­day - and hope Lewis and I can do a great job for the team.” Vet­tel said: “I was hop­ing for the last run, but then it was a bit of an anti-cli­max with the yel­low flags.”

Hamil­ton said he was happy enough with third: “Of course, I would have loved to im­prove my lap, but it just wasn’t meant to be to­day.” When asked af­ter the ses­sion to shake hands, Hamil­ton and Vet­tel turned and walked away hav­ing done so ear­lier with­out tele­vi­sion cam­eras. It was Mercedes’ 80th pole po­si­tion and the 51st pole by a Fin­nish driver. For Hamil­ton, from eighth, it is a ma­jor chal­lenge as he has never won from be­low sixth on the grid - a feat he achieved at the 2014 Bri­tish Grand Prix. Finn Kimi Raikko­nen, the 2007 world cham­pion, will start from third in the second Fer­rari ahead of Aus­tralian Daniel Ric­cia­rdo and his Red Bull team-mate Max Ver­stap­pen, backed by a crowd in­clud­ing 10,000 Dutch fans at the Red Bull Ring.

Gros­jean was sev­enth ahead of Mex­i­can Ser­gio Perez and his Force In­dia team-mate Este­ban Ocon, with Spa­niard Car­los Sainz 10th for Toro Rosso.

HAMIL­TON’S BRIGHT START

The ses­sion be­gan in balmy, but cloudy, con­di­tions with a track tem­per­a­ture of 45 de­grees, as Hamil­ton soon stamped his speed and author­ity on pro­ceed­ings. Eight min­utes in, he clocked 1:05.238, three-tenths clear of Vet­tel. Hamil­ton im­proved his time to 1:05.064, when Dane Kevin Mag­nussen had what ap­peared to be a sus­pen­sion fail­ure at turn three and drove his Haas gin­gerly back to the pits.

The first ses­sion ended with Hamil­ton on top ahead of Raikko­nen and Vet­tel, with Bot­tas pushed back to fifth by a fly­ing Sainz. Out went Bri­ton Jolyon Palmer of Re­nault, Brazil­ian Felipe Massa and his Wil­liams team-mate Lance Stroll, Swede Mar­cus Eric­s­son and his Sauber team­mate Pas­cal Wehrlein.

For Wil­liams, it was a huge dis­ap­point­ment af­ter the in­tro­duc­tion of an up­grade pack­age that has brought no in­stant suc­cess. Hamil­ton was out im­me­di­ately for second qual­i­fy­ing on su­per-softs, a switch that sig­nalled he may in­tend to run a long first stint in Sun­day’s race. His first lap was 1:04.800, trimmed by Bot­tas in 1:04.640 as the Mercedes topped the pile.

Vet­tel, on ul­tra-softs, grabbed second in the clos­ing min­utes as Hamil­ton warmed up a set of su­per-softs for his race starts, with the top three sep­a­rated by only 0.160sec.

Ger­man Nico Hulken­berg of Re­nault, twotime cham­pion Fer­nando Alonso and his McLaren team-mate Stof­fel Van­doorne, Rus­sian Daniil Kvyat of Toro Rosso and the luck­less Mag­nussen, who did not run, were the five to bow out. As the top-ten shootout be­gan, Ver­stap­pen was first out. He went top, only to be sup­planted by Ric­cia­rdo and Hamil­ton, the only driver who will start the race on su­per-softs, be­fore Bot­tas took con­trol in 1:04.251. Vet­tel then slot­ted into second again, and Gros­jean’s car fail­ure en­sured that Bot­tas took pole and his team-mate was to start eighth.—

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