Lewis Hamilton rules out Austrian GP chances as he predicts ‘easy’ Max Verstappen win

F1: Can Lewis Hamilton do it again?

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Lewis Hamilton has ruled out the chance of a win on Sunday after setting only the fourth-fastest time during qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix. His main title rival Max Verstappen starts on pole for the third race in a row.

Verstappen set a 1:03.720 in front of a full capacity crowd at the Red Bull Ring and McLaren’s Lando Norris, who starts second, was less than half a tenth behind after setting a 1:03.768 lap.

The roars from Verstappen’s fans echoed around the Styrian mountains with F1 hosting a full capacity crowd this weekend as the Dutchman secured his seventh career pole position.

Hamilton meanwhile starts behind Norris and Verstappen’s Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez, with the other Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas starting down in fifth.

Verstappen dominated during the Styrian Grand Prix last weekend around the Red Bull Ring, with Hamilton having to settle for second place, and around the same circuit this weekend, the Briton says it’ll be even tougher.

“Even more of a challenge than already it was last week, and we continue to lack pace, we tried everything to get more out of the car,” said Hamilton to Sky Sports F1.

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“It’s just the underlying pace that’s where we’re at, at the moment.

“So we’ve got to really find performance in the following races, I don’t know if McLaren have brought an upgrade, but they’re mega quick today.

“Great job from Lando [Norris], we’ve just got to try and improve.

“When I look at the lap to Max’s, yeah it’s the whole lap [we’re lacking time], just a little bit everywhere.”

Hamilton is looking to cut the 18-point lead to Verstappen in the driver’s standings on Sunday after the seven-time world champion fell behind after the Monaco Grand Prix.

And with two Red Bulls and a McLaren in front of him, the 36-year-old says a win would is too far out of reach.

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He added: “I would say so yeah, on pure pace, it’s definitely out of the question.

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

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

Hamilton’s team-mate Bottas, whose future at Mercedes is still yet to be decided, starts behind the seven-time world champion, who has incidentally just signed a new two-year deal with the team.

And the Finn was surprised how far off the pace Mercedes have been this weekend.

“It seems we went a little bit backwards from last weekend,” added Bottas.

“Or others gave more than us, I would say maybe a tenth or two we are missing from where we should’ve been.

“I don’t know if it’s the C5 [soft] compound, or McLaren has found something, that’s where the pace of the car was today.

“We really couldn’t find more straight-line speed, it’s the same as last week, we tried to go with an optimised package again.

“I just don’t think we found enough from last weekend.”

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