F1 Raceweek: Hamilton primed to stretch lead as Red Bull's row

Mercedes drivers have won the last four grands prix in Spielberg and another victory appears likely at the Red Bull Ring.

Hamilton had to settle for second in qualifying behind teammate Valtteri Bottas.   -  Getty Images

Lewis Hamilton will surely feel he has a golden opportunity to extend his lead at the top of the Formula One drivers' standings at Sunday's Austrian Grand Prix.

Reigning world champion Hamilton had to settle for second in qualifying behind teammate Valtteri Bottas, but will still begin the race four places ahead of his nearest rival in the championship standings, Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, who qualified third-fastest but received a three-place penalty for impeding Carlos Sainz Jr.

Throw in the fact Mercedes has won all four grands prix in Austria since the event returned to the Red Bull Ring and Hamilton seems primed to pull further clear of Vettel, who dropped 14 points behind the Briton at last week's French GP.

A superb Saturday for Mercedes was also enhanced by tension at Red Bull. On its home circuit, it struggled for pace and had to contend with a row between Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen.

Ricciardo, 29 on Sunday, will hope to enjoy better fortunes on his birthday as he starts from a lowly seventh on the grid - three places behind Verstappen.

READ: Vettel handed three-place grid penalty in Austria

RICCIARDO ULTIMATELY 'TOWS' THE LINE

Ricciardo was initially disgusted following an apparent misunderstanding over Red Bull's qualifying tactics. The Australian and Verstappen take turns to give each other slipstream tows in qualifying, with each driver benefiting at alternate races.

On a track with three long straights, Ricciardo felt he was at a disadvantage having been sent out as the lead car for all three runs in Q3, but Verstappen refused to overtake his team-mate, citing team protocol as he said over team radio: "No. Discipline." 

That left Ricciardo - out of contract at the end of the year - unimpressed, but he later admitted Verstappen had not been in the wrong.

"I didn't bring it up before qualifying, thinking that it was a bit more obvious than it probably was. We probably should have just talked about it a bit more beforehand. If we made it black and white before qualifying, then I could be more upset with him [Verstappen]," said Ricciardo.

Red Bull boss Christian Horner told Sky F1: "We have a very simple policy here, that has operated for the last seven years. We alternate from weekend to weekend who drives out of the garage first."

"That's the only way to keep it as scrupulously fair [as possible] from circuit to circuit. The drivers know explicitly, every weekend it alternates. They know the situation. There is nothing to explain."

ALSO READ: Bottas edges Hamilton for pole at Austrian Grand Prix

THE GRID

1. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
3. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari)
4. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
5. Romain Grosjean (Haas)
6. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari)
7. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull)
8. Kevin Magnussen (Haas)
9. Carlos Sainz Jr (Renault)
10. Nico Hulkenberg (Renault)

ALSO READ: Vettel denies Hamilton in final Austrian GP practice

STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 145
2. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 131
3. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) 96
4. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 92
5. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) 83

Constructors

1. Mercedes 237
2. Ferrari 214
3. Red Bull 164
4. Renault 62
5. McLaren 40

ALSO READ: Hamilton would understand Alonso retirement

PREVIOUS WINNERS

2017: Valtteri Bottas
2016: Lewis Hamilton
2015: Nico Rosberg

WEATHER FORECAST

Forecast thunderstorms failed to materialise at last weekend's French Grand Prix and there appears little chance of any rain in Spielberg.

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