THE Austrian Grand Prix is shaping up to be one of the most exciting races of the season after a bizarre run of events saw penalties wreaking havoc with the grid.

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc finished with pole position after a brilliant performance, setting a new track record on the Austrian circuit.

But the other driver on the front row of the grid wasn't worked out until long after qualifying finished with Mercedes driver and championship leader Lewis Hamilton handed a three-place grid penalty by stewards for a block on Alfa Romeo driver Kimi Raikkonen in the first qualifying session.

He was one of six drivers to be forced down the grid.

Both made it through to Q3 but the incident raised eyebrows.

Raikkonen was on a hot lap on the run up to turn 3.

Hamilton seemed to be surprised by Raikkonen's appearance and ran off the track to get out of his way.

But Raikkonen called it in to his team: "Hamilton completely blocked me."

Raikkonen later told Sky F1: "He kind of slowed down and then sped up on the racing line."

Hamilton said it was an unfortunate moment when he told his side of the story in the later press conference.

"Basically I saw one of the team's cars came by and I was braking for the hairpin turn three and I saw the other one coming and so I got off the brakes and I got off the brakes and went straight on to get out of the way because I didn't want to meet them in the corner," he said.

"I don't think I met them in the corner but I probably put him off I would have thought which was not ideal and I wasn't aware that car was coming so it's not the easiest."

Lewis Hamilton was the big casualty of the penalties.
Lewis Hamilton was the big casualty of the penalties.

Earlier, Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat was pushed off the track by slow going Williams driver George Russell.

"Williams was the one to bring it up, in the driver's briefing, they're always complaining about there being blocks and today they blocked me so these things happen I guess," a furious Kvyat said. "George said the team didn't tell him. Unfortunately whatever happens it will not bring back my qualifying because the car felt good and it deserved more than being out in Q1."

Russell also received a penalty and will start from the back of the grid.

The grid penalties added to the chaos caused off the track.

Toro Rosso's Alex Albon and McLaren's Carlos Sainz will start at the back of the grid after some major changes to their cars, while Renault's Nico Hulkenberg and Haas' Kevin Magnussen each copped five place grid penalty for their changes.

Hulkenberg, who beat Australian Daniel Ricciardo in qualifying for the second time this season, finished 12th but dropped to 17th, while Magnussen, who set a blistering pace, finished in fifth but will start from 10th.

It means Ricciardo, who finished in 14th, will replace Hulkenberg in 12th.

Daniel Ricciardo moves up to 12th.
Daniel Ricciardo moves up to 12th.

The chaos also extended to Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel who made it into the third qualifying session but didn't make it on track after a mechanical problem left his car in the garage.

He'll start from the fifth row of the grid next to Magnussen.

But Vettel said it was hard to watch as Leclerc romped to the pole position.

"Obviously it's frustrating, but there's nothing you can do inside the car," Vettel said. "Nobody's fault. For sure we need to understand what happened and make sure it doesn't happen again. But at that time nobody's fault. We tried everything to fix it."

Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto said the day was mixed for his two drivers.

"Mixed feelings, a shame for Seb, I'm sure he would have done well today," he said. "But no doubt Charles is doing well, this is his race, it's a solid performance. Tow poles in the last three races."

Leclerc was clinical after finishing with the fastest time in the last two practice sessions as well as setting the new track record with a time of 1:03:003.

"The car felt amazing, from FP2 it was quite good and a big pleasure to drive this car on the limit, it just felt great. I'm very happy to bring pole back home but tomorrow we have to finish the job," he said.

It's the second pole position of his career.

Charles Leclerc has continued his breakout season.
Charles Leclerc has continued his breakout season.

Hamilton, speaking before his meeting with the stewards, said the race was set up well with Leclerc, himself and defending champion Red Bull driver Max Verstappen in the top three positions.

"Congratulations to Charles, he's been quick all weekend and we've not been able to keep up all weekend," he said. "It's quite cool to see three different teams in the top three positions. I'm fighting the young ones representing for the more grown men. I'm excited to race with these guys, they're both so talented, hopefully we can put on a good show for them."

His Mercedes teammate Valterri Bottas will step up to third place on the grid.

STARTING GRID FOR AUSTRIAN GP

1. Charles Leclerc (FERRARI)

2. Max Verstappen (RED BULL)

3. Valtteri Bottas (MERCEDES)

4. Lando Norris (MCLAREN)

5. Lewis Hamilton (MERCEDES)

6. Kimi Räikkönen (ALFA ROMEO)

7. Antonio Giovinazzi (ALFA ROMEO)

8. Pierre Gasly (RED BULL)

9. Sebastian Vettel (FERRARI)

10. Kevin Magnussen (HAAS)

11. Romain Grosjean (HAAS)

12. Daniel Ricciardo (RENAULT)

13. Sergio Perez (RACING POINT)

14. Lance Stroll (RACING POINT)

15. Daniil Kvyat (TORO ROSSO)

16. Robert Kubica (WILLIAMS)

17. Nico Hulkenberg (RENAULT)

18. George Russell (WILLIAMS)

19. Carlos Sainz (MCLAREN)

20. Alexander Albon (TORO ROSSO)

 

- Hamilton: Three-place grid penalty for impeding Raikkonen

- Magnussen: Five-place grid penalty for gearbox change

- Hulkenberg: 10-place grid penalty for power unit component change

- Russell: Three-place grid penalty for impeding Kvyat

- Albon and Sainz: Required to start from back due to power unit component change


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