Ferrari's Charles Leclerc on pole in Austria

Updated: Jun 30, 2019, 08:04 IST | Abhishek Takle |

The time, the fastest ever around the undulating 4.3-kilometer long Red Bull Ring, was good enough to beat championship leader Lewis Hamilton by a sizeable 0.259 seconds

Charles Leclerc
Charles Leclerc

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc stormed to only his second Formula One pole position, with a scorching lap in Saturday's qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix.

The 21-year-old — who had gone into the session as favourite for the top spot having set the pace in two of the three practice sessions and two of the three segments of qualifying — duly delivered, lighting up the timing screens with a one minute, 03.003 second lap.

The time, the fastest ever around the undulating 4.3-kilometer long Red Bull Ring, was good enough to beat championship leader Lewis Hamilton by a sizeable 0.259 seconds.

The Briton leads the overall standings by 36 points from Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas after winning six of this season's eight races so far.

But his bid for a fifth straight win could be set back by a possible penalty, with stewards investigating the 34-year-old for impeding Alfa Romeo's Kimi Raikkonen during the opening phase of qualifying.

Max Verstappen, winner last year in Austria, will line up third for his Red Bull team's home race at a track owned by the energy drinks company.

"Come on, baby, yes!", a jubilant Leclerc, exclaimed over the team radio, after taking his first pole since the Bahrain Grand Prix in March, a race he would have won had an engine issue not dashed his hopes.

"I'm very happy to bring pole position back home, but tomorrow we'll finish the job," added the Monegasque, who will start on the soft tyre compared to the medium tyre for his rivals.

Hamilton, looking for a slipstream to try and match Ferrari's straight-line speed, acknowledged he didn't have the pace to beat Leclerc.

"I saw one of the (Alfa Romeo) cars and as I was braking for the hairpin, I saw the other one coming," he said of the incident under investigation.

"I got off the brakes to try and get out of his way. I don't think I met them in the corner but it may have put them off. It wasn't ideal."

Saturday's pole was only Ferrari's third this season. It was Leclerc's first since the Bahrain Grand Prix in March, which the Monegasque would have won from the front had an engine problem not dashed his hopes.

However, while a welcome result after Mercedes dominated every session of running at the last race in France, it was still bittersweet with Sebastian Vettel failing to make it out of the pits in the final phase of qualifying.

The German sat stranded in the garage, the engine cover of his Ferrari off and mechanics working furiously, after discovering a problem with the air pressure line feeding the power unit on the 31-year-old's car.

He will start ninth thanks to Kevin Magnussen, who qualified fifth, carrying a five-place grid drop for an unscheduled gearbox change.

Valtteri Bottas, on pole for the last two years in Austria, will start alongside the Verstappen on the second row in fourth.

Lando Norris was sixth for McLaren but will start fifth after Magnussen's penalty.

Kimi Raikkonen, who vented his frustration at Hamilton by throwing a rude gesture the Briton's way, set the seventh fastest time ahead of Alfa Romeo team-mate Antonio Giovinazzi.

Verstappen's Red Bull team-mate Pierre Gasly was a disappointing ninth-fastest but will start 8th due to Magnussen's penalty. The Dane will start tenth.

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