Pole-sitter Leclerc wants 'to finish job' as Hamilton penalised

Spielberg (Austria) (AFP) –


Charles Leclerc claimed pole position for Ferrari in Sunday's Austrian Grand Prix with a track record lap on Saturday as Lewis Hamilton was hit with a grid penalty.

An initial three-place penalty for impeding Kimi Raikkonen would normally have demoted the world champion who finished second in qualifying from the first to the third row.

But late Saturday F1's ruling body the FIA issued a revised grid that took into account an updated method for applying penalties.

This moved the Mercedes driver up from fifth to fourth. He will now start Sunday's race on the second row.

The Briton will line up alongside Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas behind pole-sitter Charles Leclerc of Ferrari and Max Verstappen of Red Bull, two 21-year-old tyros.

The FIA's updated grid took into account Haas driver Kevin Magnussen?s five-place penalty, after he had qualified fifth, for taking a new gearbox.

The curious switch came as a result of a revised 2019 interpretation of the penalties giving a priority to faster drivers in cases where decisions are required. In the past, the first driver on track held a priority.

Hamilton fell foul of the stewards when he was caught out during a slower lap in the qualifying session when he said he was unaware of Raikkonen approaching him on a flying lap.

He attempted to drive out of the way by going off track, but his actions were viewed as insufficient by the stewards.

Hamilton accepted his punishment, writing on Instagram on Saturday night: "Totally deserved the penalty today and have no problem accepting it.

"Was a mistake on my behalf and I take full responsibility for it. It wasn't intentional. Anyway, tomorrow is another day and an opportunity to rise.

"These things are sent to try us. We all have to push through whatever it is we are up against, whether it's right or wrong. Just continue to believe in yourself."

Raikkonen said he was baffled by Hamilton's actions.

"I've seen enough of the stewards lately," said Raikkonen, who is set to make his 300th Grand Prix start on Sunday.

"I don't know why he didn't slow down or let me pass. He kind of slowed down and sped up and went over the racing line."

Hamilton?s grid penalty reduces his chances of extending Mercedes record season-opening run of eight successive triumphs and gives Ferrari a great opportunity to land their first win in 12 races since last year's United States Grand ?- won, ironically, by Raikkonen.

- 'Finish the job' -

Leclerc had secured his second career pole when clocking his best lap of one minute and 3.003 seconds in the final seconds of a dramatic session that saw his Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel unable to run due to an air pressure problem.

"The car felt amazing," said a delighted Leclerc.

"I struggled in P1, but after some changes we did well and I'm happy to bring pole home.

"Tomorrow, we have to finish the job."

Ferrari are without a win this season or since the 2018 United States Grand Prix won by Raikkonen and are desperate to end Mercedes' record run of eight season-opening triumphs and 10 victories in succession.

Verstappen praised the support he received from his countrymen. "It's so great and it brings a smile to my face... With our upgrades, the car seems to be working better and this is an amazing result for us."