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Hamilton happy to see Bottas prove F1 critics wrong

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Lewis Hamilton is pleased that new Mercedes Formula 1 teammate Valtteri Bottas has proven many of his critics wrong since joining the team, believing the Finn to be a “credible competitor”.

Bottas was drafted in by Mercedes for the 2017 season following Nico Rosberg’s shock retirement from F1 just five days after clinching his maiden world championship.

Bottas scored a podium finish on debut for the team and took his first pole in Bahrain, but shot to the top of the rostrum last time out in Russia to claim his maiden grand prix victory.

The result did much to dispel suggestions that Bottas would be playing second-fiddle to Hamilton at Mercedes through 2017, with the Briton happy to see his teammate prove his critics wrong.

“Of course he’s a credible competitor, he was when he joined,” Hamilton said.

“I think it was many of you and perhaps people who are fans, whatever, came with preconceived ideas of how he was going to perform.

“He’s proved everyone wrong so fair play to him and he’s going to remain a competitor through the rest of the year so the fight will go on.

“We’ve stated our relationship with a really great foundation I think, a respectful foundation and I think that will continue.”

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.