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Sauber hoping to confirm 2018 F1 line-up in Abu Dhabi

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Sauber hopes to be in a position to confirm its 2018 Formula 1 line-up at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in two weeks’ time as talks with Ferrari regarding its junior drivers continue.

Sauber announced in July it had struck a new, expanded partnership with Ferrari that will see it enjoy current-year power units from 2018, with the Italian marque also set to place at least one of its juniors at the team.

Formula 2 champion and Ferrari-backed junior Charles Leclerc is expected to take at least one of Sauber’s seats, having featured in practice for the team in Malaysia, the USA, Mexico and Brazil.

Fellow Ferrari junior Antonio Giovinazzi raced as a stand-in for the injured Pascal Wehrlein at Sauber in Australia and China, and is also in contention for a seat, although Marcus Ericsson may be retained due to his links to the teams owners.

Asked when an announcement could be expected, Sauber team boss Frederic Vasseur said he hoped to have the 2018 line-up finalized in the next two weeks in order to go public with the news in Abu Dhabi.

“We will do the announcement, I hope, in Abu Dhabi. For sure we’ll do it before Melbourne next year, and I won’t postpone it each week,” Vasseur said.

“But I think Charles is doing a good job. The situation in FP1 is not an easy one because the first target is to avoid crashing.

“He’s consistent and he always shows a strong pace, and he’s doing a good job.”

With a Leclerc/Ericsson or Leclerc/Giovinazzi line-up likely at Sauber next year, Mercedes youngster Wehrlein faces an uncertain F1 future, with Williams the only possible seat for him to take if he is to remain in the sport.

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.