SPIELBERG, Austria (REUTERS, AFP) - Stewards handed Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton a three place penalty for impeding in Austrian Grand Prix qualifying on Saturday (June 29), dropping the Mercedes driver from the front row of the grid.
The sanction means Red Bull's Max Verstappen, last year's winner, will now start alongside Ferrari's pole sitter Charles Leclerc.
Stewards ruled Hamilton had impeded Alfa Romeo's Kimi Raikkonen in the first phase of qualifying.
The Briton was also handed one penalty point, his first of the 12 months period.
Five times champion Hamilton is leading team mate Valtteri Bottas by 36 points after winning the last four races and six out of eight.
Hamilton earlier said he made concerted efforts to avoid impeding Raikkonen, telling reporters that he was not made aware, by his Mercedes team, that Raikkonen was approaching him on a flying lap in his Alfa Romeo.
"One of the team's cars came by and I was braking for the hairpin, Turn 3, and I saw the other one coming," said Hamilton.
"So I just got off the brakes and tried to go straight on to try and get out of the way, because I didn't want to meet them in the corner.
"And I don't think I met them in the corner!
"But I think that probably put them off, I would have thought. So, it wasn't ideal and I wasn't aware that car was coming so... not the easiest."
Raikkonen, who raised a single finger at Hamilton, said he was baffled by the champion's actions.
"I've seen enough of the stewards lately," said Raikkonen, who is set to make his 300th Grand Prix start on Sunday.
"I don't know why he didn't slow down or let me pass. He kind of slowed down and sped up and went over the racing line."
Hamilron later said he deserved the penalty.
“Totally deserved the penalty today and have no problem accepting it,” Hamilton said on Instagram.
“Was a mistake on my behalf and I take full responsibility for it. It wasn’t intentional. Anyway, tomorrow is another day and an opportunity to rise.
“These things are sent to try us. We all have to push through whatever it is we are up against, whether it’s right or wrong, just continue to believe in yourself!,” he added.
“We have the power to overcome obstacles even when they appear too large a task.”