Valtteri Bottas has claimed pole position for the Austrian GP but Lewis Hamilton will start just eighth – six places behind title rival Sebastian Vettel.
Bottas outpaced the world championship leader Sebastian Vettel by less than a tenth of a second around the Red Bull Ring to claim his second F1 pole.
“We made a big improvement from yesterday,” said Vettel. “I hope we can bring it to the race.”
Kimi Raikkonen was fourth for Ferrari but will be joined on the second row by Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.
Hamilton was third quickest in the session but will be relegated down the grid due to an unscheduled gearbox change.
The Englishman endured a difficult session and aborted his final run after a series of mistakes. Uniquely among the top ten, Hamilton will start the race on supersoft tyres. In what will almost certainly be a one-stop race, Mercedes’ plan will be to run Hamilton for an extended first stint before switching to the faster ultrasofts for a late charge.
After the session, Hamilton, who had already greeted the Ferrari driver with a handshake, declined an invitation to shake hands with Vettel for the benefit of the TV cameras when the pair, along with Bottas, were interviewed on the start-finish straight.
Bottas has looked unruffled all weekend and served notice of his car’s capabilities when he set the pace in Q2.
An error-free lap of 1:04.251 earned the Finn provisional pole at the start of Q3 – and his second career F1 pole was then confirmed when the session was yellow-flagged in the closing stages after Romain Grosjean broke down on track and then Max Verstappen crashed out.
Ricciardo’s defeat of Verstappen was his first intra-team Saturday victory since April.
“At Turn Seven I tried to be a little too aggressive with the throttle and lost the rear,” said Verstappen. “I’m not sure on pace if we can get both cars on the podium.
“In terms of race pace, we can’t keep up with Mercedes and Ferrari.”
At a circuit which was expected to highlight the weakness of their package, McLaren performed respectably.
Although Fernando Alonso had to revert to an older unit after running an upgraded Honda engine in practice, the Spaniard was within a tenth of reaching the top ten.
Stoffel Vandoorne, unofficially confirmed as a McLaren driver for 2018 despite his struggles in his first full season in F1, will line up 13th just behind team-mate Fernando Alonso.
“We’ve definitely made some progress this weekend,” said the Belgian. “We are getting there.”
On what has been a difficult weekend for the Spanish youngster on and off the track, Carlos Sainz reached the top ten and in the process took the lead in his qualifying battle for 2017 against team-mate Daniil Kvyat.
Three years ago, Williams locked out the front row at the Red Bull Ring. This weekend, the Grove outfit have struggled for balance all weekend and both of their drivers fell at the first hurdle. On the podium two weeks ago in Baku, Lance Stroll’s race day in Austria will start from a distant 18th on the grid.
Austrian Grand Prix Grid
|Lewis Hamilton *
|No time set