Motor racing: Valtteri Bottas claims pole with record lap in Mercedes F1 lockout in Austria, Vettel demoted to 6th

Formula One driver Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes during qualifying at the Red Bull Ring circuit in Spielberg, Austria, on June 30, 2018.
Formula One driver Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes during qualifying at the Red Bull Ring circuit in Spielberg, Austria, on June 30, 2018.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SPIELBERG, Austria (AFP, REUTERS) - Valtteri Bottas roared to his first pole position of the Formula One season on Saturday (June 30), ahead of Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton in tense qualifying for Sunday's Austrian Grand Prix.

The soft-spoken Finn clocked a record lap in 1min 3.130sec to outstrip Hamilton by 0.019 of a second, as Mercedes reeled off a third front-row lockout of the season.

It was a repeat, for Bottas, of his success last year when he claimed pole at the picturesque Red Bull Ring track and went on to win and the fifth pole of his career.

Ferrari's title contender Sebastian Vettel, like Hamilton a four-time world champion, was handed a three-place grid penalty after stewards ruled he had impeded Renault's Carlos Sainz in qualifying in third place.

This meant team-mate Kimi Raikkonen moved up to third, with Max Verstappen lining up fourth at Red Bull's home circuit.

Romain Grosjean, yet to score a point so far this season, moved up to fifth for Ferrari-powered Haas with Red Bull's Australian Daniel Ricciardo staying in seventh.

"I just need a good clean start," said Bottas.

"Nothing amazing, no need to be a hero in Turn One and then I can go for it. I can guarantee I am more hungry to win than anyone now, so I am ready for it.

"The car felt so good. I knew there was a tenth to improve in for the last run and I managed to find it and apparently I needed it!"

He did - as Hamilton pushed him to the limit.

"Not too bad," said the Briton. "I am happy. Valtteri did a stunning lap with the first run and I made a bit of a mistake - I'm happy with the second run and it is a good result for the team."

Vettel said: "It wasn't easy to put it together and I had a mistake on the first lap. I knew I had to put in a banker lap to make it safe and qualify in a proper position - and I think we have a good chance in the race."

On a near-perfect summer's afternoon in the Styrian Alps, the air temperature was 24 deg C and the track 34 deg C as qualifying began with forecasts warning of a 40 per cent chance of rain.

After being outpaced by Vettel by 0.029sec in the morning's final free session, Hamilton was keen to regain the initiative on a circuit where Mercedes have dominated, winning every one of the four races since it returned to the calendar.

In Q1, he led the way ahead of team-mate Bottas, who won last year's race, Raikkonen and Grosjean with Vettel content to be fifth behind Verstappen.

Out went Stoffel Vandoorne, Sergio Perez, Sergey Sirotkin, Brendon Hartley and Marcus Ericsson.

Bottas and Hamilton immediately did record-breaking laps in Q2 to lead Vettel by almost two-tenths on their first runs.

They all chose ultra-softs for their second runs, Vettel improving to go top, but Mercedes not troubling the scorer in second and third as Esteban Ocon, Pierre Gasly, Charles Leclerc, who will be taking a grid penalty for a new gearbox in his Sauber, Fernando Alonso and Stroll missed the top-10 shootout.

On track, Bottas made the most of scruffy first laps by Hamilton and Vettel to go fastest early before the final drama.