The fight shifted to Ferrari’s court in F1 Austrian GP with Charles Leclerc taking pole but Sebastian Vettel had an issue while Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton took a penalty.

The F1 Austrian GP weekend at Red Bull Ring started off with Mercedes yet again terming Ferrari as a big threat but most took it lightly considering the German manufacturer’s might. However, it genuinely started to look like Ferrari had the hold.

On one of his favourite tracks, Leclerc once again looked to have an upperhand on Vettel but it didn’t come to that in the end after a Q3 disaster for the German when Ferrari found problem with the air pressure line to the engine in Q2 itself.

Mattia Binotto reckons ‘a mechanical connection came apart resulting in a loss of pneumatic pressure to the engine’ via probably Vettel riding over a kerb. He missed whole of Q3 when Leclerc took pole with Hamilton second and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen third.

Hamilton was handed a three-place grid penalty for impeding Alfa Romeo Racing’s Kimi Raikkonen, a penalty which Williams’ George Russell got too for impeding Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat – both doing it in the Q1 session. This pushed Hamilton down from the front.

He will still start the race from fourth after Haas’ Kevin Magnussen’s penalty – the FIA used a complicated method to calculate the penalty which ended up benefiting Hamilton. Meanwhile, Leclerc once again credited his approach change.

“We have been competitive since FP2 but it’s always difficult to do a lap when you need to in Q3, but we did, so I’m very happy,” said Leclerc. “We changed a little bit the car after the first run in Q3. I knew it would be a compromise a little bit for the first sector.

“But actually it wasn’t that bad and then I improved quite a lot in the third sector, which was nice to see. Very happy for the team for the pole position but it’s a shame for Seb, as I think probably the two cars should be closer to first and second.

“Our main issue in the last few grand prix was the front. We didn’t have enough front. I think this weekend it was quite a bit better. We tried different set-ups also, set-up philosophy, and it seems to be a bit better.

“So, it doesn’t mean that we’ll do a big step-up for the other races but for here it worked pretty well. I think the most time gained on the second sector is because of a stronger front compared to the last grand prix.”

One of the key strategy taken up by Ferrari was to start on the soft compound as opposed to the Mercedes drivers and Verstappen. While Leclerc can still use it to his advantage in the front, for Vettel, it will be extra use of tyres from the far end of the Top 10.

“We did some analysis after FP2, like every team does after the race simulation, and the Soft looked pretty good so we are pretty happy with our strategy,” said Leclerc. “We are definitely different than Red Bull and Mercedes but only tomorrow will tell who as right to so that choice but I’m happy with it.”

Meanwhile, Vettel was a bit down on not being able to get out where they had a very good chance to beat the Mercedes drivers. “It’s obviously bitterly disappointing on a day like this, when you have the car to fight for pole and you are not even taking part,” said Vettel.

“There was a problem with the car so we lost a part of Q2 and all of Q3. We fairly quickly made a decision but we had to take the bodywork off and it was not easy to get to the faulty bit. The guys did everything they could but we could not fix it in time.

“I knew that if we’d fixed it, most likely I would have had only one run, so I was trying to focus only on that but it didn’t happen. As much as this is a pain, it’s good to see that Charles came through and got pole. I am happy for the team.

“Obviously not happy for my side. I think our car is quick this weekend, quicker than the people in front of us so I am looking forward to a good day and a good race.” Meanwhile, for Mercedes, the team were always on the backfoot since Q1.

“We’ve been chipping away at it, but early from the get go we noticed a bit of a deficit to the Ferraris,” said Hamilton. “We thought it would be a bit closer than it was but they eked out some more time in FP3 and going into qualifying.

“We definitely under-estimated how fast they would be, I would say. I think ultimately on the straights, they really kill us on the straights, so they’ve got that extra bit of power that really works well here and I guess they just managed to figure out how to get their car to work around the medium and high-speed corners.

“I think for us, the car has been feeling good, but as I said, we can’t do much more on the straights and I’m not really quite sure why it is we lose time on the straights but that’s something we’re working towards. The last part was really difficult.

“I think there were three cars right behind me going into the last corner, everyone was waiting and waiting and waiting and pushing it to the limit. We rarely go out right at the end of qualifying but as you could see it was quite a bit windier and I think tow was probably important.”

On the incident with Raikkonen and subsequent penalty, Hamilton added: “One of the team’s cars came by and I was braking for the hairpin at Turn 3 and I saw the other one coming so I got off the brakes and tried to go straight on to try and go out the way.

“Because I didn’t want to meet them in the corner. I don’t think I met them in the corner but I think that probably put him off I would have thought, so it wasn’t ideal. But I totally deserved the penalty and have no problem accepting it.

“It was a mistake on my behalf and I take full responsibility for it and it wasn’t intentional. Anyway, the Sunday is another day and an opportunity to rise.” At the same time, Bottas – who will start from third – said a miscommunication cost him a chance to progress.

“It was sub-optimal, I would say,” said Bottas. “It’s a shame because the car felt good and the speed was there, it just didn’t end up that way. There was a bit of a communication issue, I got told there was no time and got stuck behind the car ahead of me.

“So I was way too close to improve. But, it turned out I had some margin, so I could’v e used that. We expected it to be super close with Ferrari, but they have a bit of a margin. Pole position was out of reach today, they are just too quick on the straights.

“But, it’s a long day on Sunday and starting from the second row still leaves opportunities. We’ve seen on the first lap that many things can happen, with drafting on the straights, so I’ll be giving it my all.”

Austrian GP: Leclerc on pole, issue for Vettel & Hamilton to be investigated