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Ocon ‘a little disappointed’ to miss Monza podium, settles for P6

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Esteban Ocon admitted to feeling “a little disappointed” not to have finished Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix on the podium, but felt sixth place was the maximum he could achieve for Force India against the quicker Formula 1 teams.

Ocon made a splash in a wet qualifying session at Monza by clinching third place on the grid, lining up behind Lewis Hamilton and Lance Stroll.

A good getaway saw Ocon pass Stroll into Turn 1, but he was slowly pulled back through the race as Valtteri Bottas, Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen all battled past.

Ocon led a close train including Stroll, Felipe Massa and Sergio Perez to the finish, clinching sixth place and matching his second-best result of the season.

“I really enjoyed the race and I’m happy with our performance. At the same time I’m a little disappointed because I really wanted to finish on the podium today,” Ocon admitted.

“But you have to be realistic and we didn’t have the pace to match Mercedes and Ferrari, so I think sixth place was the maximum we could achieve.

“At one stage we were racing against Raikkonen and I thought we could keep him behind, but he was just too quick. I also had a good battle with Stroll for most of the race and I had to work hard to keep him behind me.

“With the strong qualifying yesterday and the sixth place today, it’s been a great weekend. I have to say a big thanks to the whole team for all their hard work and for giving me such a competitive car.”

The result saw Ocon continue his impressive record of having finish every F1 race he has started, as well as moving to within three points of teammate Sergio Perez in the drivers’ standings.

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.