Verstappen and Hamilton will start in the front row of the Styrian Grand Prix – Sports

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by Alan Baldwin

LONDON (Reuters) – Red Bull Formula One leader Max Verstappen took center stage at the Styria Grand Prix in his team’s home on Saturday, showing that he will once again be Lewis Hamilton’s title rival.

Seven-times world champion Hamilton finished third at the Red Bull Ring in Austria but will join Verstappen in the front row of the grid as his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas, the second-fastest player, received a three-place penalty. Friday.

Verstappen leads Hamilton by 12 points on the leaderboard after seven rounds, with three wins per driver, and Sunday’s race will be another exciting battle between the competition’s most impressive drivers.

The Pole, whose fastest lap was 0.194sec from Bottas’ best, was Verstappen’s second in a row after driving the grid in France last weekend, and his third this season. It was also Red Bull’s first at Spielberg.

“I’m sure tomorrow will be very tight, very difficult,” said the Dutch driver after setting the fastest time of 1 minute 03.841 on his first lap of the last lap. The second lap was slower but faster than any other rider.

“I hope 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 daring strategy of stopping.

Hamilton stated he did everything he could, but his second session wasn’t the best and he made mistakes on the last lap.

“However, I’m still in the front row of the grid,” said the Briton. “I did everything I could and tomorrow we will fight for victory.”

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“They’ve usually had a quarter of a second above us all weekend. We were able to get really close in qualifying, but when adjusting the race yesterday they were 0.25 seconds ahead of us,” he added of the racing speed. bulls.

“It will be interesting to see if we can do it or not. I don’t think we have a strong pace to get past them, that’s for sure, but maybe we can keep up. Maybe we will be surprised tomorrow, maybe it will rain.”

Seagull in the third

The shortest lap of the last session caused the riders to maintain their momentum, fighting for space. Hamilton decided to take matters into his own hands and pass several cars ahead of him, but without winning anything in return, as Verstappen’s time withstood the test.

McLaren’s Lando Norris will start third, while Red Bull’s Sergio Perez is fourth, after Bottas’s penalty kicked for a dangerous drive after veering into the goal lane on Friday.

AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly will start sixth with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in seventh and AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda in eighth.

Tsunoda and Bottas were called in to investigate, with the Japanese rookie being investigated for allegedly blocking the Finn on the track.

Spaniard Fernando Alonso, two-time world champion, put the Alpine pole in ninth on the grid, with Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll, tenth.

UK’s George Russell, the lead candidate for Hamilton’s partnership with Mercedes next season if the team decides not to extend Bottas’ contract, has qualified in an impressive 11th place with Williams.

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