Hamilton puts Mercedes on pole for Styrian GP

Hamilton puts Mercedes on pole for Styrian GP


Six times Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton put Mercedes on pole position for the first ever Styrian Grand Prix at Austria's Red Bull Ring on Saturday.

In a session that started 46 minutes late due to heavy rain that washed out final practice, the Briton powered through the spray in a time 1.2 seconds quicker than Red Bull's Max Verstappen.

McLaren's Spaniard Carlos Sainz will line up third, with Hamilton's Finnish team mate Valtteri Bottas -- winner of the season-opener at the same circuit last weekend -- fourth fastest.

"What a tricky day," said the Briton after his stunning performance.

"The weather was incredibly difficult out there for all of us. A lot of the time you couldn't even see where you were going...I love these days."

The battle was between Hamilton and Verstappen, with the Dutch 22-year-old going fastest two minutes from the end but the champion slapping him down again with a final effort of one minute 19.273 seconds.

Verstappen then lost control on his final flying effort, sliding wide.

"What a tricky day the weather was obviously incredibly difficult out there for all of us," he told Paul di Resta in parc ferme after the end of the session. "[But] I love these days,"

"A lot of the time you can??t even see where you are going, and I had one big moment the lap before the last, a big aquaplane," he said. "I definitely had my heart in my mouth, but I was able to improve on the next lap, nice and clean.

Hamilton was certainly looking much stronger today than he had been on Friday, when Mercedes as a whole looked curiously off-colour and lacking pace.

???Yesterday was a difficult day," Hamilton acknowledged. "It started off well in FP1, and then FP2 there was a big issue for us.

"But we discovered it overnight, nothing major," he continued. ???Today would have been better for us [even] if it had been dry."

However Hamilton is one of the sport's best wet-weather drivers, as he proved again in the session that was delayed by 45 minutes due to track conditions caused by earlier torrential downpour.

"I am grateful for the rain like always," Hamilton said. "But I heard tomorrow is going to be a much more sunny day,. I think we are prepared for both conditions."

In the meantime, securing pole position was the target for Saturday, having lost out to Bottas a week ago at the same venue and then suffering a grid penalty. No such problem this week.

"That??s where I want to start, so I am glad it was a trouble-free session, I didn't make really any mistakes. That??s always a positive.???

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