Leclerc on pole as Hamilton hit by 3-place grid penalty - GulfToday

Leclerc on pole as Hamilton hit by 3-place grid penalty

Charles-Leclerc

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc celebrates after qualifying in pole position at the F1 Austrian GP in Spielberg, Austria, on Saturday. Reuters

Charles Leclerc claimed pole position for Ferrari in Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix with a track record lap on Saturday as Lewis Hamilton was hit with a three-place grid penalty, demoting the world champion from the first to the third row.

Hamilton was due to share the front row with Leclerc but the stewards found the Mercedes driver guilty of impeding Kimi Raikkonen.

Leclerc will now have fellow-21-year-old Max Verstappen of Red Bull alongside him.

The two young tyros will start ahead of a second row made up of Valtteri Bottas in the second Mercedes and British rookie Lando Norris, 19, of McLaren.

Hamilton will start on the third row alongside 39-year-old Raikkonen of Alfa Romeo, who had lifted a single finger at him at the time of the incident in the first qualifying session.

Hamilton was caught out during a slower lap in the session when he said he was unaware of Raikkonen approaching him on a flying lap. He attempted to drive out of the way by going off track, but his actions were viewed as insufficient by the stewards.

Hamilton’s grid penalty reduces his chances of extending Mercedes record season-opening run of eight successive triumphs and gives Ferrari a great opportunity to land their first win in 12 races since last year’s United States Grand -- won, ironically, by Raikkonen. Leclerc had secured his second career pole when clocking his best lap of one minute and 3.003 seconds in the final seconds of a dramatic session that saw his Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel unable to run due to an air pressure problem.

“The car felt amazing,” said a delighted Leclerc.

“Tomorrow, we have to finish the job.” Hamilton said he was not made aware by his Mercedes team that Raikkonen was approaching him on a flying lap in his Alfa Romeo. “One of the team’s cars came by and I was braking for the hairpin, Turn 3, and I saw the other one coming,” said Hamilton.

“So I just got off the brakes and tried to go straight on to try and get out of the way, because I didn’t want to meet them in the corner.”

Agence France-Presse