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Ferrari's bittersweet Saturday sets up nervy Austrian Grand Prix

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SPIELBERG, Austria -- Despite some late drama in its garage, Ferrari managed to secure its third pole position of the season on Saturday. Charles Leclerc was the man to do it as a car issue kept Sebastian Vettel in the garage at the end of Q3.

It might not have been the front-row lockout the team probably should have claimed, but it sets up another golden opportunity for the win. And to think, it is less than a week since the red team was utterly trounced by Mercedes in France, leading to our first talking point from the session...

How Ferrari turned the tables on Mercedes: After qualifying 0.6s off the pace of Mercedes in France, Ferrari turned the tables with a 0.26s advantage over their main rivals in Austria. An impressive result just one week on from the Italian team's worst race of the season, but one that was also somewhat predictable.

All season Ferrari has held a significant advantage on the straights, and with 79 percent of the Red Bull Ring being taken at full throttle -- compared to just 60 percent of Paul Ricard -- the layout in Austria was always going to play to Ferrari's strengths. The SF90 has also been a match for Mercedes in high-speed corners this year and seven of the Red Bull Ring's ten turns are taken at over 200km/h, helping to hide the car's deficit in slow- and medium-speed corners.

If there is a ribbon of tarmac made to suit the SF90, it's the 4.4kms of the Red Bull Ring in the foothills of the Styrian Alps.

Leclerc also revealed that Ferrari has changed its setup direction to coax more front-end grip from the car this weekend, which gave him the positive turn-in he needed to attack the lower speed corners at Turns 1, 3 and 4. Combined with a brilliant lap from Leclerc himself on one of his favourite circuits on the calendar, we ended up with a new track record at the Red Bull Ring.

A nervy Sunday for Leclerc: The last time Leclerc was on pole was in Bahrain and it didn't end well. After easing to a comfortable lead ahead of Lewis Hamilton, a short circuit in his engine's injection system control unit cut one of his six cylinders and saw him drop to third.

After Ferrari saw Sebastian Vettel fail to run in Q3 in Austria -- albeit due to a completely different issue on a different spec of engine -- there are likely to be some nervous engineers on the pit wall during Sunday's 71 laps. The key will be to get a full understanding of Vettel's problem by Saturday night and double check everything on Leclerc's car while observing parc ferme regulations between qualifying and the race.

Ferrari know as well as anyone that the job in Austria is far from done.

Hamilton penalised Lewis Hamilton will lose his spot on the front row of the grid and drop to fourth for Sunday's race. The world champion appeared to baulk Kimi Raikkonen at the top of the hill during the session, despite noticing the Alfa Romeo approaching and jumping off the circuit at the last minute.

Raikkonen had no doubts about how the incident played out.

"He blocked me, as simple as that!" he said. "How can it be so difficult to move out of the way for people? And then there's radios and for sure every team is telling which drivers are going fast or not. Let's see what happens."

The F1 rulebook has been at the centre of attention recently and this was an interesting case as the incident did not prevent Raikkonen from progressing to Q2. But the letter of the law in this case has been followed -- as it was at the Canadian Grand Prix when Sebastian Vettel controversially lost victory.

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Paging Bottas 2.0... Poor Valtteri. The little moments just aren't going his way at the moment.

Mid-way through Q3 it looked as though they were -- he was sitting in P2 and Max Verstappen had wedged his name between BOT and HAM on the timing screens. But Bottas was caught napping at the end of his out-lap ahead of his final flying lap, with Leclerc stealing track position from him at the final corner. Leclerc is entitled to do that but it hampered Bottas' preparations for the lap, as track position and tyre temperature are so crucial these days.

Bottas put that down to a slightly panicked finish to the session, where Mercedes told both drivers they were cutting it fine in terms of time.

"It was sub-optimal, obviously, on the last run," the Finn said after Q3. "There was some communication issues. I was told there was no time and I was parked right behind the car ahead of me, way too close to improve my lap time. When I was starting my lap I was told there was 30 seconds margin, so I could have used the gap.

"It's a shame. Felt good in the car, speed was there, just didn't end up that way."

Bottas will well inherit a grid position when Hamilton drops down the order but the recent weeks have felt a bit like the season slipping away from Bottas -- he made qualifying mistakes in Canada and France and has slipped 35 points behind his teammate. The Finn has won here before and he'll need to recapture a bit of that Bottas 2.0 magic from earlier in the season to inject some life into this championship season, because at the moment its fading without a trace.

Haas back on form?: It's been a difficult run of races for Haas -- Guenther Steiner called the French Grand Prix the team's worst in the entire time its been in Formula One. Kevin Magnussen helped bring some positive vibes back to the team with a great display in Q3, crossing in P5 and letting out a triumphant roar over the radio when told where he had finished.

"YES! I love you guys," the Dane shouted at the end of his message, which was a big change from his despondent tone during the Canadian Grand Prix as he ran two laps down on the leaders.

Magnussen will drop down the order once a five-place grid penalty is applied for a gearbox change Haas was forced to make after FP3, but he was thrilled with how well the team had dealt with that setback.

When asked by Sky Sports where the lap had come from, he said: "I have no idea, absolutely no idea. Just came alive on that last run. I'm so happy because we have that penalty so we're starting 10th, after FP3 and all the guys in the garage flew onto the car... even the other side of the garage came in and worked incredibly quickly to get it ready. Even with the penalty it was a team effort and I'm so happy."

That penalty will relegate him back towards teammate Romain Grosjean, who was beaten into Q3 by Magnussen himself and could only manage 11th position. It might be further back than Haas would have been without any outside drama, but expect the two black and gold cars to be good shape tomorrow at a circuit which suits any car running a Ferrari engine.

Terrible timing, Pierre: We all know Pierre Gasly is under extreme pressure. Red Bull is assessing its options at the moment -- recent changes to the members of its driver programme show how keen it is to add a young driver with enough superlicence points to provide some alternate options in case it wanted to make a change.

Gasly needed a strong showing regardless this weekend but given the fact the Austrian Grand Prix is held at Red Bull's own circuit, his poor display in Q3 was even more of a disaster for his short-term career prospects. Red Bull was never going to be a contender for pole with a Honda engine but its hard for Gasly to argue his case when he qualified ninth and Verstappen managed to grab the session by the scruff of the neck and qualify in P3.

Having attended media sessions with Gasly recently, his confidence looks shot to pieces and his body language is awful.

Speaking on Friday, Red Bull's chief engineer Paul Monaghan gave the Frenchman an odd appraisal: "Pierre finds it a little bit more difficult to drive in certain sections of the corners -- I think -- than Max from his comments but he's a quick, young driver. Let's not forget that.

Monaghan went on to add: "He's much happier this weekend, straight away. He's on the pace, so his confidence is on the up again. He's part of our team. We'll support him as best we can with every bit of energy we've got and I think he'll come good."

Gasly's performance will have tested that patience again on Saturday afternoon. It's never nice to see a driver who is clearly talented struggling under the lights in this way, so here's hoping Gasly can rustle up some magic for his team on Sunday afternoon. At this rate he might not get many more opportunities to do that.