Updated: Sunday, 22 June 2014 18:24 | By Agence France-Presse

Williams, Mercedes set for Austrian Grand Prix duel

The return of the Austrian Grand Prix looked set to provide a duel between Williams and leaders Mercedes on Sunday as Felipe Massa stood in pole position in Spielberg.


Williams, Mercedes set for Austrian Grand Prix duel

Williams' Brazilian driver Felipe Massa (L) drives ahead of Mercedes' German driver Nico Rosberg in the qualifying session of the Austrian F1 Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria on June 21, 2014 - by Samuel Kubani

With Red Bull failing so far to impress on home turf, Williams drivers Massa and Valtteri Bottas stepped up to challenge championship leader Nico Rosberg and his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton with superior qualifying performances on Saturday. 

The result was a Williams front-row lock-out that could give the team a long sought-after shot at a win. 

But Mercedes -- which has dominated all season, losing only one out of seven races -- will no doubt be gunning for first place again, with Rosberg hot on Williams's heels in third place on the grid. 

Hours before the race was due to start at 2:00pm (1200GMT), crowds had already started converging on the Red Bull Ring, filling the stands and fields around the scenic track, set amidst green hills in southern Austria.

Spielberg, a historic venue that welcomed its first Formula One race in 1970, is known for its laid-back atmosphere with fans camping for days in the surrounding countryside, a stark contract to the more glamourous city races of Monaco or Singapore. 

Under blue skies and sunshine, some 95,000 fans were expected on Sunday for the first Austrian Grand Prix in 11 years. The last race here in 2003 was won by German seven-time champion Michael Schumacher.

Victory would give Williams just their second Grand Prix win since 2004. Massa, meanwhile, last won in Brazil in 2008 -- which was also the last race where he took pole position. 

Finland's Bottas, who fell short of his first pole on Saturday, has never made it onto a podium. 

Rosberg however already showed at the Australian Grand Prix earlier this season that he could climb up from third place on the grid to take the win. 

Hamilton, who is seeking his second title but stands 22 points behind his teammate, will have a more difficult time, starting in ninth place. 

Mercedes currently lead the constructors' standings with 258 points ahead of Red Bull's 139 points. 

Latest Photo Galleries on xinmsn