South Africa

Bottas upstages Hamilton to take opening pole of season

Bottas upstages Hamilton to take opening pole of season

Valtteri Bottas upstaged his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton with a sizzling and dramatic display Saturday to claim pole position ahead of him for Sunday’s delayed season-opening Austrian Grand Prix. AFP/LEONHARD FOEGER

Valtteri Bottas upstaged his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton with a sizzling display to claim pole position ahead of the Briton for Sunday’s delayed season-opening Austrian Grand Prix.

The Finnish driver outpaced the six-time champion with a best lap in qualifying in one minute and 2.939 seconds and then survived an ‘off’ into the gravel and a spin on his final lap to emerge 0.012 seconds clear of Hamilton.

It was Bottas’ third pole at the Austrian Grand Prix and the 12th of his career, a feat that followed Hamilton’s cleansweep of the three practice sessions on Friday and Saturday morning.

“It feels really good – I’ve missed this feeling,” said Bottas.

“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.”

Max Verstappen was third for Red Bull, half a second adrift of the two newly-painted ‘black arrows’ cars whose dominating performance delivered a 65th front row lock out for the team, equalling Ferrari’s record.

“I’m happy to be P3,” said Verstappen. “But we have a different tyre so it’s going to be interesting.”

Lando Norris was an impressive fourth for McLaren ahead of Alex Albon in the second Red Bull and Sergio Perez, who was sixth in Racing Point’s ‘pink Mercedes’.

Charles Leclerc was a disappointed seventh for Ferrari ahead of his future team-mate Carlos Sainz in the second McLaren, Lance Stroll in the second Racing Point and Daniel Ricciardo of Renault.

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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