SPIELBERG, Austria (Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton set his sights on second place after Saturday’s Austrian Grand Prix qualifying left the Mercedes title contender languishing in eighth on the starting grid for Sunday’s race.
A winner three times so far this season, and in Austria last year, the triple world champion told reporters he was thinking only as far as the second step of the podium after a penalty for a gearbox change dropped him five places.
His team mate Valtteri Bottas will start from pole position, for the second time in his Formula One career, with Ferrari’s championship leader Sebastian Vettel joining the Finn on the front row.
Vettel leads Hamilton by 14 points after eight races and looks likely to extend that advantage in Austria.
“I will do the best job I can. Obviously, I want to get up there and try and get a one-two with Valtteri so I will do the best job I can to get further up,” said Hamilton, who will start on the slower supersoft tyres.
“It makes no sense for Valtteri to slow down,” he added when asked whether the Finn might slow the pace at the front to give Hamilton an advantage with tyres that will enable him to do a longer opening stint than his rivals.
“That will not be the case. It makes sense for him to push as hard as he can to win the race,” said Hamilton.
Bottas, who is third overall and 28 points behind Hamilton, said the Mercedes pre-race strategy notes did not envisage any action on his part to help Hamilton.
“We need to focus on having a good start of the race and we need to win the race. And for sure Lewis can fight back from where he’s starting,” he said.
“If you start playing games like that here it’s quite tricky... it only needs one mistake and you can lose the win. So I‘m not planning on that at the moment.”
Hamilton qualified ninth in Austria in 2014 and finished second behind then-team mate Nico Rosberg -- with Bottas third for Williams -- but, as the Briton pointed out, Mercedes enjoyed a greater performance advantage then.
Sunday, he said, would be mostly about damage limitation.
The chance of rain over the Red Bull Ring could help him, however, given his record of shining in slippery conditions.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ken Ferris