Beating Verstappen ‘out of the question’ – Hamilton racing with Norris and Perez

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Seven-time Formula One champion Hamilton qualified in fourth behind Sergio Perez, surprise 2021 star Lando Norris and championship leader Max Verstappen, who has pole.

Verstappen, who is 18 points clear, won at the Red Bull Ring last week and is the only F1 driver with three victories at his team’s home circuit.

Fourth place (Verstappen in 2018) is the furthest back a race winner has triumphed from since Spielberg returned to the calendar in 2014, but Hamilton does not believe such a recovery is possible.

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On the weekend he committed to Mercedes until 2023, the Briton believes he is set to tie his longest winless run over a single season (five races – also twice in 2016).

“I don’t,” Hamilton replied when asked if he thought he could steal a strategic win. “We definitely can’t take it to the Red Bulls, obviously. They’re just too fast.

“But maybe we can step up, I guess my race now is with the two guys ahead of me – trying to get past them.”

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He added: “On pure pace, [winning] is definitely out of the question.

“Those guys have got two cars to get through in front, and they’ve got three-tenths on us. I think they’ve improved their car again for this weekend.

“So, I would say that’s an easy cruise win for Max. I think for us it’s to try to see if we can get ahead of Perez and try to limit the damage this weekend.”

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Norris grabs ‘epic’ second place with Verstappen on pole again

Hamilton at least fared better than two of his former title rivals, with Sebastian Vettel handed a grid penalty for impeding Fernando Alonso in Q2.

Vettel will start from 11th, having qualified in eighth, while Alonso is back in 14th.

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“I guess the weekend is over now for us, but nothing we can do,” Alonso said.

Ahead of Vettel’s expected punishment, which was later confirmed, the Spaniard added: “It will change something for them, but for us it will change everything on the weekend.

“I don’t think that Seb could do much more because, inside the car, we are just relying on our engineers, so I guess it was more the team than Seb himself.”

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