SPIELBERG • It was a day of mixed emotions for Ferrari. Charles Leclerc clinched pole position for today's Austrian Grand Prix while teammate Sebastian Vettel did not start the third qualifying session yesterday after a mechanical problem kept his car in the garage.
The pole was Leclerc's second of the Formula One season and Ferrari's first in Austria since Michael Schumacher in 2003.
The 21-year-old Monaco driver, who clocked a best lap of 1min 3.003sec, was initially joined on the front row in today's race by five-time world champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes, who was two-tenths of a second behind.
But the Briton dropped to fifth alongside Kimi Raikkonen after being hit with a three-place grid penalty for an incident in Q1, when he was deemed to have obstructed the Finn's Alfa Romeo.
Red Bull's Max Verstappen is bumped up to second, with Hamilton's teammate Valtteri Bottas in third and McLaren's Lando Norris completing the second row.
"The car felt amazing," said Leclerc, who also started in pole in the second race of the season in Bahrain. "In P1, I struggled a little bit and, then from P2, it was quite good and a big pleasure to drive this car on the limit.
"On what we tested in P2, we're pretty happy with the choice (starting with soft tyres) we've made, so we'll see what happens tomorrow.
"Tomorrow will be very difficult physically and for the car. We need to finish the job."
Vettel will start in ninth because Haas' Kevin Magnussen, who was fifth, has a five-place grid penalty following a gearbox change.
"The car was broken, so we couldn't fire it up and go, so we lost part of Q2 and then Q3 completely," said the four-time champion, who clinched pole at the Canadian Grand Prix two races back.
"We fairly quickly made the decision to change, but it's not so easy. We had to take the bodywork off and it's not so easy to get there.
"The guys did everything they could but we couldn't do it in time."
AUSTRIAN GP GRID
1 Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari
2 Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull
3 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes
4 Lando Norris (Gbr) McLaren
5 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes
6 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Alfa Romeo
7Antonio Giovinazzi (Ita) Alfa Romeo
8 Pierre Gasly (Fra) Red Bull
9 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari
10 Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas
Ferrari chief Mattia Binotto added: "Mixed feelings. A shame for Seb, I'm sure he would have done well.
"Pretty happy, two poles in the last three races. Charles is doing very well. Our performance is very circuit-dependent."
Hamilton leads the drivers' standings on 187 points, ahead of Bottas (151) and Vettel (111).
"Congratulations to Charles, he's been quick all weekend," the Briton said. "We've been chipping away at it but, right from the get-go, we noticed a bit of a deficit to the Ferraris. We definitely underestimated how fast they would be."
In a dominant campaign for Mercedes, Hamilton has won six of eight races, including the last four. The champions have also won four of the last five races at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg.
Verstappen, backed by an "orange army" of fans in the Styrian Alps, will be hoping to delight the Red Bull fans today.
The Dutchman said. "This is an amazing result on this track, which is not easy for us.
"Hopefully I can give the fans a great result tomorrow."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
F1 AUSTRIAN GRAND PRIX
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