Ferrari’s Leclerc snatches pole as Hamilton penalized at Austrian GP

Ferrari's Leclerc snatches pole as Hamilton penalized at Austrian GP

Charles Leclerc in a Ferrari grabbed pole position in qualifying Saturday for the Austrian Formula One Grand Prix.

Leclerc, 21, chalked up a lap record of 1 minute 3.003 seconds for his second career pole after starting from the front of the grid in Bahrain, the second race of the 2019 season.

World champion and championship leader Lewis Hamilton was second, 0.259 adrift of Leclerc, ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas.

However, the 34-year-old Hamilton was later handed a three-place grid penalty for impeding the Alfa Romeo of Kimi Raikkonen. Hamilton will, however, start fourth because of the way in which grid penalties also affecting other drivers are applied in sequence.

Verstappen and Bottas edged up the table to second and third, respectively. Lando Norris, racing for McLaren, will start fifth.

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel suffered a problem with his car after the second session and was unable to run in Q3.

He will start ninth on Sunday as Haas driver Kevin Magnussen is one of four drivers with grid penalties, dropping from fifth to 10th.

Raikkonen and Alfa Romeo team-mate Antonio Giovinazzi finished sixth and seventh, and Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly eighth ahead of Vettel.

Leclerc, 21, confirmed the pace he showed in Friday’s practice in sweltering conditions at the Red Bull Ring.

“The car felt amazing, in FP1 (first practice) I struggled a little bit but in FP2 we made some changes and it was quite good,” Leclerc said.

“It’s a big pleasure to drive this car on the limit and it just felt great. I’m very happy to bring the pole position home but tomorrow we need to finish the job.

“We’re happy with the tyre choices we’ve made but with the weather it will be about management of everything.”

Hamilton was penalized after an incident when he ran off the track at Turn 3 during the first segment of qualifying in an attempt to get out of the way of Raikkonen, but stewards ruled he impeded the Finn.

“Totally deserved the penalty today and have no problem accepting it,” he said on social media. “Was a mistake on my behalf and I take full responsibility for it. It wasn’t intentional.”

Hamilton had earlier congratulated Leclerc.

“Positioning was so difficult, I was never getting the slipstream,” he said.

Verstappen’s place on the second row ahead of Bottas was a boost for home fans of the Austrian Red Bull outfit.

“I’m really happy at the moment, this is an amazing result the whole weekend, with the upgrades, the car is working better and really happy to be in the top three.”

Of the home support, the Dutchman said: “It’s great, brings a big smile on to my face and hopefully I can give them a big result tomorrow.”

Vettel said of his mishap, revealed to be an air pressure line to the engine: “Obviously the car was broken – we lost part of Q2 then Q3 completely.

“We made the decision to take the body off but couldn’t get it fixed in time. It’s frustrating for sure but there was nothing we could do inside the car, it was nobody’s fault.

“It’s not happy from my side of the garage but great for the team to see Charles come through and get pole.”

Five-time F1 champion Hamilton has won the last four races and six this season, and leads the standings 36 points ahead of Bottas, who has won the season’s other two races. Vettel is 76 points adrift in third.