Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel was the best non-Mercedes qualifier on Saturday ahead of this weekend's Austrian Grand Prix. The four-time world champion slotted in just behind rival Lewis Hamilton and was set to charge for prime position on Sunday, but as a result of a penalty for impeding Renault's Carlos Sainz in Q2, he will start from the sixth position on the grid at Spielberg.
The incident occurred near the end of the second qualifying round where Sainz was pushing for his fastest time of the session. As he approached Vettel on-track, Sainz was forced to maneuver around the cruising Ferrari and ran off-line to avoid contact.
"I had to take a curb to avoid him, I nearly crashed," Sainz exclaimed over team radio.
Despite the run-in, both drivers made it through to Q3. Vettel completed the day third fastest with Sainz hanging out near his Renault teammate Nico Hulkenberg in ninth.
"In the end, it didn't change my quali much," Sainz said to the media after qualifying. "It made me damage a front wing, which obviously costs money and it takes work to repair and you don't know if the wing will continue to work as well as before. But it didn't affect me too much."
"I think he simply didn't see me. He didn't do it on purpose. He wasn't warned on the radio," Sainz concluded.
Vettel explained later that he had not been warned of the charging Sainz, resulting in the near-miss.
"I was turning into Turn 1, trying again [to look] because I was thinking he must be there somewhere, I don't know if he was pitting or starting his lap," Vettel said in a press conference. "But as it turned out obviously he was trying to go for a fast lap. I couldn't see him, I wasn't told on the radio, so I can only apologize to him."
"There was no intention," Vettel continued. "I was looking down the straight, I turned around Turn 1, I was done with my lap and just wanted to make sure and there was nothing [in the mirrors] after Turn 1, which was obvious because I saw in the replay that we were side-by-side."
With the penalty in play, Red Bull's Max Verstappen has been promoted to the second row and will start alongside Kimi Raikkonen. Haas' Romain Grosjean will move to fifth and start alongside Vettel while the fourth row and beyond stands unaffected by the ruling.