Massa back on pole for Austrian Grand Prix

Spielberg: Williams driver Felipe Massa secured his first pole position in six years today, setting up an exciting duel with Mercedes for tomorrow`s Austrian Grand Prix.

The 33-year-old Brazilian outpaced the competition with a fastest lap of one minute and 08.759 seconds in the dying minutes of the qualifying round, to take his 16th career pole, 0.087 seconds ahead of teammate Valtteri Bottas.

Massa deprived Mercedes`s current championship leader Nico Rosberg of a third successive pole position, leaving the German trailing by 0.185 seconds with the third fastest time.

"I`m so happy with what`s happened today with us, our team. It`s such a great moment. It`s been a long time since I had my last pole position, which was in Brazil in 2008," Massa said after the qualifying round.

"For sure we need to concentrate on the race tomorrow, it`s a very difficult, important race for us. But I think it`s a great moment," he added.

Bottas, who achieved his best ever result today, was similarly ecstatic: "It`s a great achievement. Of course it`s only Saturday but I am really looking forward to tomorrow."

Mercedes and Williams had already dominated the three practice sessions at the Red Bull Ring this weekend. But Rosberg and 2008 champion Lewis Hamilton had to watch Massa and Bottas speed ahead on the 4.3-kilometre track.

Hamilton, a four-time Grand Prix winner this season, eventually finished in ninth place.

"I definitely didn`t expect Williams to be ahead of me today but they did a good job," Rosberg conceded.

Still, he remained in fighting spirit ahead of Sunday`s race, which sees the return of the Austrian Grand Prix after an 11-year absence.

"Third place is ok. I have a cool car for the race tomorrow so everything`s possible," said this year`s Australian and Monaco Grand Prix winner.

"I will do my best. It was a strong performance (from Massa and Bottas) but I think I can be faster in the race. So we`ll see... I think I have good chances."

Ahead of this weekend, it was Red Bull -- fresh from taking first and third places at the Canadian Grand Prix -- that were widely expected to set up an exciting duel with the current leaders.

But the Austrian team has struggled in Spielberg despite racing on home turf.

Germany`s Sebastian Vettel barely made it past the first qualifying round with just the 15th fastest time and then succumbed in the second round, a far cry from his championship winning form in the past four seasons.

Teammate Ricciardo meanwhile improved his times on Saturday -- finishing qualifying with the fifth fastest time -- but still failed to match his performance from Montreal when he won his first ever Grand Prix.

Already after the first practice sessions, Red Bull`s drivers admitted they would not be going into Sunday`s race as the favourites, with Mercedes too strong at the moment.

Except for Montreal two weeks ago, Mercedes have enjoyed a near-perfect season, winning the first six races, allowing them to build a 119-point lead in the constructors` standings ahead of Red Bull.

Facing a new track this weekend that included some tricky turns, several drivers -- including Hamilton and Alonso -- saw times disallowed Saturday after going too far off course.

Force India`s Sergio Perez will meanwhile drop five places on the grid for his horrific crash with Massa in Montreal two weeks ago. Marussia`s Max Chilton also has a three-point grid penalty for causing a collision in Canada and will start at the back.

The last Austrian Grand Prix winner in 2003 was seven-time champion Michael Schumacher. 

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