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Hamilton: F1 must change to create closer, natural racing

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Lewis Hamilton has joined the call for change in Formula 1 by stressing the importance of close, organic racing.

The sport’s technical regulations are poised to be overhauled in 2017 in a bid to improve the on-track spectacle that has been blamed for dwindling TV figures and track attendances in recent years.

In Thursday’s press conference ahead of this weekend’s United States Grand Prix, a number of drivers were asked about the push to better F1 and make the sport faster, widening the gap to support championships such as GP2 and Formula Renault 3.5.

Although Hamilton was not fully aware of the changes that were being put forward for 2017, the Briton said that something definitely needed to be altered to improve the racing in F1.

“I think it does need to change,” Hamilton said. “I’ve not really looked at the changes they’re proposing, to be honest, but it needs to be… for example, with the DRS, it doesn’t feel organic, like natural racing.

“Whatever changes they make, I want to see closer racing. Wheel to wheel racing. It needs to be like go-karting was. If, you know, go-karting, wheel to wheel and those guys following the train overtaking. We need to make Formula 1 a bit more like that somehow.

“I don’t know how they’re going to do it. It needs to be a lot different to what it was in the last 20 years.”

Hamilton’s thoughts were echoed by Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen, who said that F1 needs to become faster and more exciting for fans to watch.

“F1 should be easily the fastest racing cars in the world and it doesn’t look right some races where we go and GP2s are a few seconds off,” Raikkonen said.

“[F1 cars] should be definitely faster, more like they were in the mid-2000s. I think that’s the way they plan to go and I think it’s more fun for us, it looks much more greater to the spectators.

“But also, they have to make it nicer for all the people. Everybody is complaining it’s boring, it’s this and that. If something doesn’t change nobody will care how the car looks or how fast they are.

“Something has to change, that’s for sure, for F1 to get back more interesting for everybody – but I think it’s a good way to go, make the cars faster and more exciting looking.”

Valtteri Bottas takes pole position for season-opening Austrian GP

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SPIELBERG, Austria — Valtteri Bottas upstaged Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to take pole position Saturday for the Formula One Austrian GP.

The Finnish driver edged out the world champion by 0.012 seconds to claim the top spot for the season opener at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg. He clenched his fist as he climbed out of his car and shared a hug with Hamilton.

“It’s something special when you push the car to the limit,” said Bottas, who is chasing an eighth career win. “Feels so good. It’s very impressive (from the team).”

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was third, and Lando Norris gave McLaren a boost by finishing fourth. Verstappen has won the past two years here, including 2019 when he started third behind Hamilton and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

“It’s going to be interesting quite a bit warmer tomorrow and hopefully this will play to our advantage,” Verstappen said. “Today, Mercedes was on a different level, unfortunately. Last year we were also a little bit off in qualifying so I expect we will be a bit better in the race.”

Bottas had the leading time when drivers embarked on their final laps and beat his own mark before sliding off the track into the gravel.

Hamilton was chasing a record-extending 89th career pole. He was ahead but then dropped off slightly as Bottas secured a 12th career pole.

“Great job by Valtteri. It’s a great start to the season,” Hamilton said. “We show year on year that we continue to be the best team. We’re open-minded … constantly learning from each other and pushing the boundaries.”

Ferrari struggled for speed, with Leclerc nearly one second behind in seventh and Sebastian Vettel failing to make it into the third and final part of qualifying, known as Q3. He starts the race from 11th on the grid.

Vettel is leaving Ferrari at the end of the season with his future in F1 uncertain.

Earlier, Hamilton posted the fastest time in morning practice. The 35-year-old British driver was also quickest in both sessions on Friday.

Midway through third practice, F1 newcomer Nicholas Latifi misjudged the exit of a turn and spun his Williams car into a protective tire wall.