Motor racing: Bottas pips Mercedes teammate Hamilton to pole in Austria season opener, Ferraris struggle

Mercedes' Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas during qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix on July 4, 2020 in Spielberg. PHOTO: AFP

SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA (REUTERS, AFP) - Finland's Valtteri Bottas put Mercedes on pole position for Sunday's (July 5) season-opening Austrian Formula One Grand Prix, with world champion teammate Lewis Hamilton alongside on the front row.

The front-row lockout on Saturday afternoon at the Red Bull Ring was a record-equalling 65th for champions Mercedes.

It was Bottas' third pole at the Austrian Grand Prix after Hamilton had topped all three practice sessions ahead of him. He outpaced the six-time champion with a best lap in qualifying in 1min 2.939sec and then survived an "off" into the gravel and a spin on his final lap to emerge 0.012sec clear of Hamilton.

"It feels really good - I've missed this feeling," said the Finn.

"The qualifying shakes! It's something special when you push the car to the limit and I've been waiting for a long time - we seem to be in our own league."

Hamilton added: "A great job by Valtteri and it's a great start to the season and I'm happy to be here.

"I think we show year on year that we are the best team - because we are open-minded, keep with the times and nobody is too stubborn to admit they are wrong."

Red Bull's Max Verstappen, winner of the past two Austrian Grands Prix, qualified third with McLaren's Lando Norris, at 20 the youngest man in the race, starting fourth.

Italian outfit Ferrari have been sluggish in practice and their drivers fared only modestly, with Charles Leclerc in seventh and Sebastian Vettel 11th.

"Of course, it's a surprise, we thought we had a little bit more in hand but it seems the others were probably running a little bit more fuel or were more conservative in practice," Vettel said.

"I wasn't so happy with the car, more oversteer in entry than I would like. But we will see, I think tomorrow is a different picture."

The Austrian race is the opening event of the 2020 season after the traditional season-opener in Australia was cancelled in March before the global lockdown over the Covid-19 crisis.

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