Valteri Bottas edges Lewis Hamilton as Mercedes takes front row in Austria

Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes' Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas and Ferrari's German driver Sebastian Vettel pose after the qualifying ahead of the Austrian Formula One Grand Prix. (AFP/ANDREJ ISAKOVIC)
Updated 30 June 2018
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Valteri Bottas edges Lewis Hamilton as Mercedes takes front row in Austria

SPIELBERG, Austria: Valtteri Bottas edged teammate Lewis Hamilton for pole position at the Austrian Grand Prix as Mercedes locked up the front row of the grid for the third time this season on Saturday.
Bottas led Hamilton by 0.019 seconds to get his first pole of the season. The Finnish driver also started in front last year and went on to win the race.
“I can guarantee I am more hungry for the win than anyone on the grid,” Bottas said. “The whole weekend we’ve made good progress with the set-up. The car felt so good.”
Hamilton said Bottas deserved to beat him.
“I am really happy. This is a great result for the team,” he said.
Sebastian Vettel was more than three-tenths off the pace in third, followed by Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen. In a duel of two four-time world champions, Vettel trails leader Hamilton by 14 points going into Sunday’s ninth of 21 races.
Bottas took advantage of mistakes by Hamilton and Vettel in the final third of qualifying, and neither could match the Finn’s speed in their final laps.
“I knew I needed a banker to make safe I qualified in a good position,” Vettel said. “I had a bit left but not enough to challenge Valtteri.”
Vettel was under investigation by race stewards for allegedly impeding Carlos Sainz, who told his team, Renault: “I had to take a kerb to avoid him, I nearly crashed.”
Max Verstappen was fifth but his Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo was beaten by Haas driver Romain Grosjean for sixth.
Underlining his potential, Charles Leclerc became the first Sauber driver since 2014 to reach the second qualifying round in six straight races. The Monaco-born driver posted the 13th quickest time but will have to start from 18th following a grid penalty.
Leclerc, who reportedly is a candidate to replace Raikkonen at Ferrari next season, ended practice with an engine issue, forcing his team to replace the gear box.
The qualifying result put Mercedes ahead of Ferrari again, hours after Vettel’s fastest time in final practice which suggested the Italian team had caught up with the upgraded Mercedes cars.
Hamilton and Bottas dominated practice on Friday after the team applied several aerodynamic changes to their cars, including a new side pod design and an adapted front and rear wings.
The upgrades put Mercedes in a favorable position to stretch its winning streak on the Austrian track. It has won all four races since the Austrian GP returned to the calendar in 2014, with Hamilton and Bottas triumphing in the past two seasons.
The team’s dominance over the years has been a result of its superior power unit and the layout of the track, at 4.3 kilometers (2.7 miles) among the shortest in F1 with just nine turns and four long straights, favoring cars with good traction and straight-line speed.
Situated in Central Austria’s countryside, the track includes inclines of up to 12 percent.
Overtaking has always been tough on this track, but for the first time Sunday’s race will feature a third DRS zone, a section where drivers are allowed to use a drag reduction system in order to get a speed boost while chasing the car in front.
Sunday’s race is the second of F1’s inaugural triple header, after last week’s French GP with the British GP at Silverstone to follow on July 8.


Blue Point focused on Al-Quoz glory after magical run at Meydan

Updated 15 February 2019
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Blue Point focused on Al-Quoz glory after magical run at Meydan

  • Star sprinter proves class with easy G2 win in Dubai.
  • Charlie Appleby hopeful over Al-Quoz Sprint chances.

LONDON: Star sprinter Blue Point is on course for glory in the much-anticipated Al-Quoz Sprint on Dubai World Cup night. That is the message from Godolphin after a brilliant victory in the G2 Meydan Sprint on Thursday.
The Dubai-based stable have long held high hopes for the Shamardal horse and the five-year-old’s win confirmed that they have something special on their hands.
Blue Point took up the running from Faatinah with more than two furlongs to race and readily opened up daylight over his rivals approaching the final furlong, quickly going clear.
For Charlie Appleby the performance only went to prove that Blue Point has it in him to steal the show on Dubai World Cup night in March.
“If he brought his class, he was going to be good enough to win, but we had left a bit on him because the G1 Al-Quoz Sprint on Dubai World Cup night is our target,” the Godolphin trainer said.
“No disrespect to this race, and we were pleased to win it, but it was the right stepping stone onto the Al-Quoz.
“I was pleased to see him in the paddock, more so than a couple of days ago when it looked like he had a couple of pounds left on him. He had tightened up a bit.
“We were always confident that he was going to come forward for whatever he did. He is a five-year-old now and a professional — getting better with racing. He came alive two furlongs down and it was only a matter of William asking him to pick up and do a bit of work.”
The “Boys in Blue” always place a lot of focus on the World Cup night and a second win in the Al-Quoz sprint — Appleby saddled Jungle Cat to victory last year — is one of the aims for the famous race meeting in March.
“I am very pleased and, all being well, he should step forward for it and all roads will now lead to the Al-Quoz Sprint,” Appleby said.
“I feel that he is not overly exposed as a sprinter — we looked after him as a two-year-old and a three-year-old, while he wasn’t over-raced last year so he is entitled still to be learning.”
Added to the optimism surrounding Blue Point is the fact that William Buick feels he is coming to form at just the right time.
“It was a nice comeback opportunity for Blue Point and he did it very comfortably, doing everything right. It was lovely to see him come back like that,” the jockey said. “He has probably matured a little bit compared to 12 months ago and the biggest difference this year is that he is a G1 winner this time. He had proved himself and feels like a very confident horse — there is no question that he is a top sprinter.”
Meanwhile, Godolphin’s star G1 performers Hartnell, Best Of Days and Alizee have been entered for the world’s richest mile race, the $5 million All-Star Mile to be run at Flemington on March 16.
Head trainer James Cummings confirmed that all three horses will seek a place in the famous race.
“We think it’s great the way in which it really engages with not only the racing audience, but potentially reaching out beyond just that and bringing in a wider audience from not only Australia, but from around the world,” Cummings said. “We’re really excited to be a part of the richest mile race anywhere in the world.”