Austrian GP: Charles Leclerc takes pole as Lewis Hamilton is demoted
Dramatic Austrian GP qualifying sees Leclerc comfortably beat Hamilton - but technical issue leaves Vettel 10th; Hamilton demoted to fourth for blocking Raikkonen; Verstappen outpaces Bottas to start second
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 30/06/19 2:35pm
Charles Leclerc claimed a brilliant Austrian GP pole for Ferrari from Lewis Hamilton, who was later demoted to fourth in a dramatic session that saw Sebastian Vettel qualify only 10th.
An on-song Leclerc produced a dominant display at the Red Bull Ring to beat Hamilton, but the world championship leader was later given a three-place grid penalty for a block on Kimi Raikkonen in Q1.
An engine-related issue for Vettel at the start of Q3 meant he failed to set a lap in the final phase.
Max Verstappen claimed the scalp of Valtteri Bottas to take second place (after Hamilton's demotion) for Red Bull at their home race, with the other Mercedes now starting third.
"I just really hope that tomorrow everything will be fine, and a clean race and hopefully the first victory at the end of it," Leclerc said after claiming the second pole of his career.
Kevin Magnussen took an out-of-the-blue fifth for Haas, although takes a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change, which means Lando Norris rises up a place after qualifying sixth, as his fine form continued for McLaren.
Alfa Romeo, meanwhile, claimed a surprise double top-10 result and outqualified the second Red Bull of Pierre Gasly, whose qualifying troubles continue amid ongoing speculation about his seat. Renault lost both their cars in Q2.
Magnussen's penalty means Vettel will start ninth, but with it all to do to make progress for the second successive weekend.
The Hamilton-Raikkonen incident occurred at Turn Three when the Mercedes was ahead on the road but not on a fast lap. Hamilton was on the inside of the corner as the Alfa Romeo approached, before taking to the run-off area.
Austrian GP Qualifying: Top 10
1. Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
2. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes*
3. Max Verstappen, Red Bull
4. Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes
5. Kevin Magnussen, Haas**
6. Lando Norris, McLaren
7. Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo
8. Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo
9. Pierre Gasly, Red Bull
10. Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari
*3-place grid penalty
**5-place grid penalty
Ferrari hit back against Mercedes - but what about their strategy?
Despite Hamilton's penalty, it's the first time F1's Big Three line up with one car at the head of the field in sequence this season - with Ferrari clearly quickest over a single lap for the second time in three events.
"Ferrari are killing us on the straights," Bottas admitted, with the more Canada-like nature of the short but fast Red Bull Ring playing to Ferrari's known speed strengths.
But it was Leclerc who truly demonstrated the SF90's potential, with the 21-year-old's final lap in Q3 some 0.259s quicker than Hamilton's.
"The car felt amazing. In P1 I struggled a little bit and then from P2 it was quite good and a big pleasure to drive this car on the limit," Leclerc said, celebrating his second F1 pole.
"On what we tested in P2, we're pretty happy with the choice we've made, so we'll see what happens tomorrow."
Hamilton's initial front-row position was only secured with his final lap, with the world champion starting his last attempt a provisional fourth. He said the lack of slipstream from a car ahead hurt his pace.
"Congratulations to Charles, he's been quick all weekend," Hamilton said. "Positioning was so difficult out there and I always out at the front so I was never getting the slipstream."
However, Leclerc will start on different tyres to Hamilton, Verstappen and Bottas after Ferrari used the faster soft compound, compared to their rivals' more durable mediums, to set their Q2 times on.
Despite clearly having the pace to progress to Q3 on a harder compound, Ferrari chose the attacking strategy for Leclerc and Vettel. But while the polesitter will have a grip advantage over the cars immediately behind him at the start, Leclerc will be expected to pit earlier than Verstappen and the Mercedes'.
The whole Austrian GP weekend is live only on Sky Sports F1. Sunday's race begins at 2.10pm with build-up from 12.30pm. Find out more about Formula 1 on Sky Sports