Motor racing-Verstappen and Hamilton on front row for Styrian GP

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·3-min read
Steiermark Grand Prix
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By Alan Baldwin

(Reuters) -Red Bull's Formula One world championship leader Max Verstappen took pole position for his team's home Styrian Grand Prix on Saturday and set up another duel with title rival Lewis Hamilton.

Seven-times world champion Hamilton qualified third at Austria's Red Bull Ring but will join Verstappen on the front row because Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas, second fastest, collected a three-place grid penalty in Friday practice.

Verstappen leads Hamilton by 12 points after seven rounds, with three wins each, and Sunday's race promises to be another thrilling battle between the championship's two outstanding drivers.

The pole, with a lap 0.194 quicker than Bottas's best, was Verstappen's second in a row after France last weekend, and third of the season. It was also Red Bull's first at the Spielberg circuit.

"I'm sure again tomorrow it will be very tight," said the Dutch driver after posting a fastest time of one minute 03.841 seconds with his first run of the final session. His second lap was slower, but still quicker than anyone else.

"Hopefully again it will be as interesting as in France," added Verstappen, who won at Le Castellet after overtaking Hamilton on the penultimate lap as part of a bold two-stop strategy.

Hamilton said he had done all he could but his second run had not been one of his best efforts and he made mistakes on the final run.

"Nonetheless it's still on the front row after the penalty," said the Briton. "I did everything I could and we go into the race tomorrow for a fight.

"They've generally had a quarter of a second on us all weekend. We've managed to eke closer in qualifying but in race trim yesterday they were 0.25 ahead of us most of the time," he added of Red Bull's speed.

"It will be interesting to see whether or not we can manage it. I don't think we have raw pace to overtake them, that's for sure, but we might just be able to keep up. Maybe tomorrow we'll be surprised, maybe it rains."

NORRIS THIRD

The short lap saw drivers hold back, jockeying for space and clean air, throughout qualifying and particularly the end of the final phase.

Hamilton decided to take matters into his own hands and pass several cars ahead of him, without gaining anything as Verstappen's time stood the test.

McLaren's Lando Norris will start third with Red Bull's Sergio Perez fourth following the grid drop imposed on Bottas for dangerous driving when he spun his car across the pitlane on Friday.

AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly qualified sixth with Ferrari's Charles Leclerc seventh and AlphaTauri's Yuki Tsunoda in eighth.

The Japanese rookie was handed a three-place grid drop, however, for impeding Bottas.

That lifted Spain's double world champion Fernando Alonso to eighth with Alpine, ahead of Aston Martin's Lance Stroll.

Britain's George Russell, the main contender to partner Hamilton at Mercedes next season if they decide not to extend Bottas's contract, will move up to 10th with Williams.

He had earlier expressed disappointment at missing out by a mere 0.008 of a second on a first appearance in the final phase of qualifying.

Red Bull are chasing their fourth successive victory after winning in Monaco, Azerbaijan and France. The team last won four in a row in 2013, before the V6 turbo hybrid era ushered in seven years of Mercedes domination from 2014.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, Editing by Catherine Evans, Hugh Lawson and Pritha Sarkar)

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