SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JUNE 30: Pole position qualifier Valtteri Bottas of Finland and Mercedes GP is presented with the Pirelli Pole Position trophy by former F1 World Drivers Champion Nelson Piquet during qualifying for the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on June 30, 2018 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes AMG F1 team stormed to his first pole position of the season in the Qualifying of the Austrian GP at Spielberg. He was just ahead of his teammate Lewis Hamilton (P2) and comfortably ahead of Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari (P3). Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen rounded off the top-five positions.

Romain Grosjean of Haas was the surprise package as he finished P6. However, Vettel was given a three-place grid penalty for impeding Carlos Sainz in Q2 and demoted to P6.

Valtteri Bottas Storms to Pole As Sebastian Vettel Incurs Penalty

Vettel Incurs Grid Penalty

Vettel qualified P3 but will start P6 after a three-place grid penalty. The German was handed the penalty for impeding Sainz on his final flying lap in Q2. Vettel had completed his flying lap and was on his cool dwn lap.

Sainz started his flying lap and encountered Vettel as he exited Turn 1. He had to take sharp evasive action and damaged his front wing as he ran over the high kerbs. The Spaniard made it to Q3 and qualified P9 eventually.

Vettel explained that he did not see Sainz in his mirrors and was not aware of him. But the stewards deemed that he should not have been on the racing line on his cool down lap and impeded Sainz. The three-place grid penalty will see Vettel start behind the two Mercedes drivers, teammate Kimi Raikkonen, Max Verstappen and Romain Grosjean.

On a track where grid position is important, the grid penalty could prove to be costly for Vettel. It gives his title rival Hamilton a big advantage as he starts on the front row of the grid.

Q1: Perez and Vandoorne eliminated early

The first qualifying session started in pleasant weather conditions, with air temperatures at 24 degrees C and track temperatures at 29 degrees C. Most cars started the session on ultrasoft tyres while the Ferrari cars surprisingly started on the mid-range supersoft tyres. Hamilton topped the session with a time of 1:04.080s.

Lance Stroll managed to scrape through to Q2, as did Charles Leclerc, even after having an off-track moment.

The surprise elimination in Q1 was of the Force India driver – Sergio Perez. Stoffel Vandoorne of McLaren was another big-ticket elimination. Other drivers in the dropzone were Brendon Hartley, Sergey Sirotkin and Marcus Ericsson.

Q2: Vettel tops ahead of both Mercedes drivers

Most leading cars started the second qualifying session on the mid-range supersoft tyres. Only Fernando Alonso tried his luck with the hardest ‘soft’ tyres. Both the Haas cars of Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen did well to qualify for Q3. Even though the Mercedes cars were very fast, Sebastian Vettel managed to top the session with a time of 1:03.544s.

The drivers eliminated at the end of Q2 were Lance Stroll, Fernando Alonso, Charles Leclerc, Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon.

Q3: Ricciardo struggles while Grosjean surprises with a strong lap

The top-ten shootout was expected to be a close affair with both the Mercedes and Ferrari teams looking evenly matched and Renault finally coming up with the “party mode” in their engines. But the Renault powered cars did not seem a match to the front-runners on track.

Hamilton and Vettel both made mistakes on their first runs, allowing Bottas and Raikkonen to draw first blood on their teammates. Hamilton tried hard on his latter runs but Bottas was on a purple patch and nailed the pole position with a lap record of 1:03.130s.

Beleaguered Romain Grosjean of Haas got a fairytale redemption of sorts by qualifying P6, ahead of a Red Bull. Daniel Ricciardo was looking out of sorts throughout the session and could only qualify P7.

Intriguing battle on the cards on Sunday

Mercedes has locked out the front row and Vettel now starts P6. Bottas will be eager to defend his win from last year, while Hamilton would try all to keep the upper hand on his teammate. Red Bull seems a bit off the pace in qualifying, but could still be in the hunt at their home race in the Red Bull Ring. Strap up for an intriguing battle on Sunday.

The Complete Qualifying Time-Sheet:

Pos No Driver Car Q1 Q2 Q3 Laps
1 77 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:04.175 1:03.756 1:03.130 18
2 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:04.080 1:03.577 1:03.149 21
3 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:04.347 1:03.544 1:03.464 18
4 7 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:04.234 1:03.975 1:03.660 21
5 33 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 1:04.273 1:04.001 1:03.840 18
6 8 Romain Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:04.242 1:04.059 1:03.892 17
7 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 1:04.723 1:04.403 1:03.996 22
8 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 1:04.460 1:04.291 1:04.051 20
9 55 Carlos Sainz Renault 1:04.948 1:04.561 1:04.725 19
10 27 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:04.864 1:04.676 1:05.019 20
11 31 Esteban Ocon Force India Mercedes 1:05.148 1:04.845 19
12 10 Pierre Gasly Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda 1:05.011 1:04.874 16
13 16 Charles Leclerc Sauber Ferrari 1:04.967 1:04.979 19
14 14 Fernando Alonso McLaren Renault 1:04.965 1:05.058 17
15 18 Lance Stroll Williams Mercedes 1:05.264 1:05.286 17
16 2 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren Renault 1:05.271 9
17 11 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:05.279 11
18 35 Sergey Sirotkin Williams Mercedes 1:05.322 10
19 28 Brendon Hartley Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda 1:05.366 11
20 9 Marcus Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:05.479 11

P.S. – Charles Leclerc penalised 5 grid places for a gearbox change.

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