SPIELBERG (Austria) • Valtteri Bottas upstaged both Formula One title protagonists yesterday by claiming pole position for Mercedes in a tense qualifying session for today's Austrian Grand Prix.
The Finn clocked 1min 4.251sec to outpace championship leader Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari by four hundredths of a second.
The pole was the second of Bottas' F1 career after Bahrain in April. Vettel won that race but Mercedes have triumphed in Austria every year since the Red Bull Ring returned to the calendar in 2014.
"I really enjoyed it today and when you enjoy it, usually the result is good. Got the car nice and stable for qualifying and was able to build up the confidence and this is a track where you really need it in the high-speed corners," Bottas, who won the Russian Grand Prix in April, said.
"The car was getting better and better as the day went on and I'm very happy to be on pole."
His team-mate and three-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, who trails Vettel by 14 points in the title race, was third fastest in the other Mercedes. But the Briton will start the race from eighth place on the grid due to a five-place penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change.
"Congratulations to Valtteri and to Sebastian. They were both very fast. I did the best job that I could," said Hamilton, who has never won from below sixth on the grid.
AUSTRIAN GP GRID
1 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes
2 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari
3 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari
4 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull
5 Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull
6 Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas
7 Sergio Perez (Mex) Force India
8 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes
9 Esteban Ocon (Fra) Force India
10 Carlos Sainz Jr (Esp) Toro Rosso
12 Fernando Alonso (Esp) McLaren
17 Felipe Massa (Bra) Williams
"I will do the best job I can tomorrow. I want to get a one-two with Valtteri so will try to do that."
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.
Finn Kimi Raikkonen will start from third in the other Ferrari, ahead of Australian Daniel Ricciardo and his Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen, who was backed by a crowd including 10,000 Dutch fans.
Hamilton's grid penalty dispelled some of the tension from a weekend that started with continued rumblings from Baku and the "road rage" controversy that has dominated the headlines over the past two weeks.
Vettel had to make a public apology after accusing his rival of "brake-testing" him after the German drove into the back of the Mercedes and then banged wheels with him while they were behind the safety car.
He was subsequently cleared from further sanctions by the governing FIA (International Automobile Federation).
Valtteri Bottas will start on pole today for the second time in his career. The first came in the third race of the season in Bahrain.
Although Hamilton has accepted the apology and said he still has "the utmost respect" for Vettel, he refused to play along when asked to shake hands with his rival in post-qualifying interviews.
Television images showed, however, that he and Vettel had done so unprompted after they stepped out of their cars in the pit lane.
"The car was really good. I was hoping for the last run but it was a bit of an anti-climax with the yellow flags," said Vettel, who will fancy his chances of a fourth win of the season. "It's a great track, the car has been phenomenal. I'm looking forward to tomorrow, it should be a good race."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
F1 AUSTRIAN GP
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