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Hamilton takes pole in Styria thriller

NEWS STORY
11/07/2020

Ahead of today's qualifying session - assuming it takes place or at least goes the distance - the air temperature is 15.2 degrees C, while the track temperature is 21.1 degrees.

Due to the heavy rain this morning's practice session was cancelled, and while the rain has now stopped the track remains wet. Furthermore there is the threat of further rain to follow.

While this would play into the hands of Ferrari and Red Bull, Mercedes would prefer that it dries or, better still, move qualifying to tomorrow morning.

Other than the rain, there is the cloud cover which currently means the medical helicopter cannot fly which means the session cannot get underway.

Tantalisingly, the rain stops and the skies brighten, then, all too quickly the rain begins to fall again.

Nonetheless, it looks as if the session will go ahead, albeit in difficult conditions.

As the drivers done their balaclavas and helmets however the rain intensifies.

The safety car heads out as the helicopter hovers overhead.

At which point it is announced that the start is delayed. It is subsequently advised that there will be a 10-minute warning before the session gets underway.

Most of the drivers are now out of their cars.

The rain has intensifies again, and though there is a dry patch following, other than the fact they don't know how long it will last there is the question of how wet the track will remain.

At 15:36 race control announces that the session will get underway at 15:46. Expect action from the outset as drivers go for their banker laps.

There is a flurry activity as the drivers and team personnel assume their positions.

Air temperature is still 15 degrees C, while the track temperature has dropped slightly to 20 degrees.

Vettel heads the queue at the end of the pitlane, almost two minutes before the green light, ahead of his teammate, Giovinazzi, Gasly, Raikkonen and almost everyone else. All are on full wets.

As light rain begins to fall, Vettel is told that it will get heavier.

On-board with Leclerc the youngster has almost no visibility.

All twenty drivers are on track as Vettel begins the first flying lap of the day.

"I can't see a thing," reports Verstappen.

As Vettel closes in on Grosjean, who was last out, the Frenchman heads off into the gravel at T4.

Vettel posts 1:24.235, with Giovinazzi posting 24.336 and Leclerc 24.658.

Understandably, the drivers further back in the pack, and thereby suffering most in terms of vision, are slower. That said, Russell goes quickest with a 24.031.

Moments later Giovinazzi improves to 23.828 and Leclerc 23.072 as Vettel fails to improve.

A 23.193 sees Bottas go second as the timing screen lights up in various shades of purple, green and yellow.

Magnussen goes second but is demoted when Vettel bangs in a 22.652. However, Leclerc responds with a 21.857.

"The rain is getting heavier," the Monegasque is warned.

Verstappen goes second with a 21.942, ahead of Ocon, Vettel and Albon.

Hamilton posts 20.953 but is immediately demoted by Leclerc (20.871).

Albon spins at T3 but is able to continue as Bottas goes quickest (20.749).

Verstappen responds with a 20.621 as Norris posts 21.545 to go sixth.

Ricciardo, Magnussen, Perez, Russell and Grosjean currently comprise the drop zone as Bottas raises the bar with a 19.734.

Hamilton goes top with a 19.664 while Ocon posts 19.687 to take second.

Grosjean understood to have a water pump issue. Don't laugh.

PBs in all three sectors are only good enough for sixth for Vettel (20.706).

Bottas retakes the top spot with a 19.637, only to be demoted when Norris stops the clock at 19.128.

Vettel improves but remains seventh. Teammate Leclerc is currently ninth. The German is on 9-lap old wets while his teammate switches to a fresh set.

Sainz goes top (18.741), ahead of Hamilton, Norris and Bottas.

As Hamilton improves to 18.188 he asks not to be disturbed with radio messages.

Ricciardo goes fifth with a 19.662, ahead of Ocon, Verstappen and Vettel.

Norris improves to second (18.504) to make it a McLaren 2-3.

Perez can only manage 16th, as Russell goes tenth with a 20.382.

A big spin for Giovinazzi who takes a long, long trip across the grass and subsequently parks up at T10 after clouting the barriers and shedding some bodywork. The Italian is currently 19th.

Double-yellows are waved before the session is red-flagged with seconds remaining, which is bad news for Raikkonen, Perez and Latifi who were on flying laps but now fail to make the cut.

Quickest is Hamilton, ahead of Verstappen, Norris, Sainz, Bottas, Ricciardo, Ocon, Stroll, Kvyat and Gasly.

We lose Raikkonen, Perez, Latifi, Giovinazzi and Grosjean.

The lights go green for Q2, and again Vettel leads the way, ahead of Bottas, Hamilton, Leclerc, Sainz, Kvyat and the rest.

"It is raining again," Hamilton is warned. The Bulls are among the last out.

Despite being first out again, Vettel finds that he has Ocon up ahead, whereas in Q1 it was fellow Frenchman Grosjean.

Vettel posts 21.078 and Bottas - in clear air - 19.006. Leclerc goes second ahead of Hamilton.

Verstappen goes second with a 20.054 ahead of Stroll, Leclerc and Sainz.

Hamilton's second flying lap sees the Briton go quickest with an 18.741.

Verstappen responds with an 18.155, 0.586s up on the world champion.

A 19.264 sees Norris go fourth, only to be demoted when Ricciardo posts 19.229.

Albon can only manage seventh (19.495), while Russell goes 13th with a 20.016.

Verstappen raises the bar with a 17.938, 0.278s quicker than Hamilton.

It's déjà vu all over again as Leclerc, currently 11th, looks set to improve and thereby demote his teammate to the drop zone.

Russell improves to 19.636 but remains twelfth.

Purples in the opening sectors see Hamilton post a 17.825.

Leclerc and Kvyat are under investigation.

A mistake by Vettel in T1 not only ruins his lap, it allows Leclerc through.

"The rain is getting heavier," reports Verstappen, which explains Vettel's mistake.

Leclerc fails to improve and is currently in the drop zone.

Bottas consolidates fourth with an 18.657.

Neither Ferrari driver improves, which is bad news for Leclerc.

Stroll posts a PB in S2 as Hamilton posts 17.825.

Vettel remains tenth while Leclerc fails to improve and misses the cut.

Quickest is Hamilton, ahead of Verstappen, Norris, Bottas, Ocon, Sainz, Albon, Ricciardo and Vettel.

We lose Leclerc, Russell, Stroll, Kvyat and Magnussen.

A fantastic performance from Russell.

There's a late scare for Vettel when Stroll looked set to improve, but a mistake in the final corner ruined his lap.

Check out our Saturday gallery from Spielberg, here.

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