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Bottas takes Austria pole ahead of Vettel as Hamilton struggles


Despite the best efforts of the (mainly British) media to keep the Baku incident in the headlines, The Austrian Grand Prix is shaping up to be just as enthralling albeit without much of the drama.

Yesterday we saw Lewis Hamilton set a blistering pace in both sessions, leading one to suspect that the Briton was set to make up for the disappointment of Azerbaijan.

However, it was subsequently revealed that the team had opted to change his gearbox having discovered an issue post-Baku and therefore he would face a 5-place grid penalty.

Quick to dismiss speculation that the gearbox was damaged in 'that incident', Mercedes and Hamilton suffered a further set-back late in this morning's session when the Briton suffered a brake failure while heading into T3 at 200 mph.

To compound Hamilton's misery, Sebastian Vettel suddenly found some pace and ended the morning quickest, around 0.269s ahead of the Briton.

Consequently, what would already have been an exciting session, with Hamilton needing pole in order to try and counter the grid penalty, has been given more relevance as speculation over the Mercedes brakes issue mounts, a situation not helped by the last call not to allow Valtteri Bottas a late qualifying simulation run.

Off the pace for much of the weekend thus far, a late improvement saw Kimi Raikkonen go fourth, while the Red Bull duo, though not as close as yesterday, are still very much in touch.

Best of the rest, certainly based on this morning's session, is Haas and then Honda, while Force India is struggling, though nowhere near as bad as Williams which really looks set for one of those nightmare weekends it has from time to time... and this at a time the Grove outfit is introducing a much-anticipated upgrade.

The Renaults appear to be mixing with the McLarens, Fernando Alonso having reverted to the Spec 2 unit after Honda discovered with his MGU-H.

Although, on the face of it, the track has little in common with Baku, as was the case two weeks ago we have seen everyone go off at almost every single corner. Furthermore, like Azerbaijan, traffic is a major problem, and is certain to have an impact in Q1.

Ahead of Q1, the air temperature is 29 degrees C, while the track temperature is 46 degrees. It is bright and sunny.

Magnussen gets things underway, the Dane followed by teammate Grosjean, Ericsson, Wehrlein and Vettel. Raikkonen is another early riser, like his teammate he is on the supersofts while everyone else is on ultras.

Magnussen goes quickest of the first group, crossing the line at 6.143. Vettel posts 6.437 to go third and Raikkonen 13.506 to go seventh.

Next time around Magnussen fails to improve while Raikkonen goes second with a 6.165. Elsewhere, Grosjean is off at T7.

A 6.066 sees Ricciardo go quickest, though moents later he is demoted by Vettel who slips in a 5.585.

A massive lock-up means Verstappen can only manage fifth (6.258).

Having gone quickest in S1, Ocon goes third overall with a 6.137.

On his first flying lap Hamilton goes quickest in S1, the Briton on ultras while his teammate is on supers.

Hamilton crosses the line at 5.238 to go quickest as Magnussen heads back to the pits after damaging his rear suspension on the kerb at T3.

Verstappen goes third (5.779), ahead of Ricciardo, Bottas and Ocon.

Posting PBs in all three sectors, Perez goes fifth with a 5.975 as Alonso posts 6.158 to go ninth.

Hamilton improves to 5.064 suggesting we're not far away from a 1:4s lap.

Ocon admits that he hit the kerb at T9 with the left of his car, he asks his team to check for damage.

With 4:20 remaining, Sainz, Palmer, Stroll, Wehrlein and Ericsson comprise the drop zone, with Massa, Vandoorne and Kvyat hovering.

Stroll loses a heap of time in S3 and remains 18th, as Raikkonen, currently eleventh, heads out again.

Sainz goers third with a 5.675, as Raikkonen posts 5.148 to make it a Ferrari 3-4.

Like his teammate, Massa fails to improve, both having one more lap in which to make a difference.

Vandoorne posts a PB in S2, crossing the line at 6.316 to go 15th.

Meanwhile the stewards are investigating an incident involving Palmer and Raikkonen.

Despite their best efforts, neither Williams driver can improve and therefore miss the cut.

Quickest is Hamilton, ahead of Raikkonen, Vettel, Sainz, Bottas, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Grosjean, Perez and Kvyat.

We lose Palmer, Massa, Stroll, Ericsson and Wehrlein.

Despite making it through to Q2, Magnussen will play no further part in today's action as his suspension is too badly damaged.

Check out our Saturday gallery from Spielberg, here.


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