Lewis Hamilton tops qualifying at the Austrian Grand Prix to claim pole position ahead of Rosberg and Vettel.
A dramatic end to qualifying saw Lewis Hamilton claim his 45th career pole position despite Rosberg’s late charge setting him up for pole. In the end, Nico was forced to settle for second after his mistake cost him dear.
Qualifying began under mixed conditions following a down pour midway through the final practice session. But during the break, the track dried up in most parts and left just damp patches in the corners.
Given the damp start, drivers began the session on the intermediate tyres in order to set banker times and even though only 12 times were recorded from the 18 who first ventured out, Sainz and Verstappen held the early lead.
As more times were posted on the board, Vettel and Rosberg moved ahead of the Toro Rosso pair but elsewhere drivers began the switch to dry tyres. For most the call was for supersoft tyres but at Williams the call was for softs and this failed to hold their drivers back at first with both, Massa and Bottas, moving clear of the intermediate times.
The difference in compound soon proved too much as the track continued to improve and the lap times tumbled as the clock rolled down, forcing Bottas and Massa down the order. A quick change was in order for the duo before returning to the ever-faster track, but no man could hold onto P1.
Fastest of all changed with every second, whether it be a Toro Rosso of Sainz, a Mercedes of Hamilton or even the McLaren of Button. All the time their team-mates lingered towards the drop but as the clock stuck zero and the flag began to wave, the order changed even more.
Late improvements by the lower half of the field meant Raikkonen dropped out early when he opted to pit at the flag. Button also missed out on a Q2 place despite improving but finished the session one tenth down to Alonso who just moved through.
As you would expect, Hamilton also progressed into Q2 but finished the session in a low 13th place after being blocked off during his late flying lap. But while he moved on, Perez, Merhi and Stevens joined Button and Raikkonen in the elimination zone.
Unlike Q1, Q2 began with all drivers running the supersoft tyres and instantly the lap times were faster for most although some needed a little longer to generate enough temperature for a flying lap. But even with Rosberg in the 1 minute 10’s, Hulkenberg set the early benchmark time on a 1:10.207.
After a short break for a switch of tyres, Rosberg and Vettel took to challenging each other to set the pace with both edging away from the field. While Hamilton could have brought the challenge to the duo, a poor sector meant he sat three tenths down with one more run to go.
In the final runs, Williams moved ahead of the Renault powered teams who had posted strong times in the opening stages given their limited power in comparison. But when the flag fell, more time was found and Rosberg jumped four tenths clear of second place Hamilton while others dropped further back.
Vettel and Bottas lead the charge for the rest of the field but even they were seven and nine-tenths behind Rosberg. Maldonado, Ericsson, Sainz, Ricciardo and Alonso meanwhile all failed to beat the drop and were eliminated from qualifying.
For the drivers remaining, Bottas hit the track first for the top 10 shoot-out followed closely by Massa and the Mercedes. Valtteri’s first lap however was a few seconds off the pace in just the first sector alone. Whereas Hamilton, Rosberg and Nasr lit up the times with purple sectors. But at the line Rosberg lead by four tenths to Hamilton after Nico made up the time in the middle sector.
Next time round Bottas improved on his original lap by four seconds to move within one tenths of Hamilton, who was suffering with understeer. But the understeer did not hold the Brit back for long as he stormed into provisional pole by two tenths after lighting up the times in every sector.
At the break in Q3 Hamilton sat in P1 with a 1:08.455, followed by Rosberg and Vettel. But with time for one more run, the drivers steadily flowed back onto the track.
First to improve was Hulkenberg who moved up from P7 to P5 but in the battle for pole, it came down to the two Mercs.
Out in front Nico pushed hard and set the fastest middle sector of the session in a bid to overturn the two tenths Hamilton held over him. But as Lewis set up his final lap he ran out onto the wet astro, leaving him with little grip by the time he hit turn one causing him to spin. Now all Nico had to do was keep it on track and pick up any time he could in the final sector.
But Nico pushed too hard into the final corner and ran off the track, beaching his car in the gravel to hand Hamilton pole position. Vettel ended the session in third place, with Massa four tenths back in 4th.
Hulkenberg’s improved lap meant he split the Williams for P5 while Verstappen lead the Renault powered teams in P7. Grosjean meanwhile had to settle for 10th place in qualifying after being unable to return to the track in order to set a final lap time.
Hamilton’s P1 in qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix means he is set to start on pole for the 45th time in his F1 career. Pole also means Mercedes have obtained pole in every race since Austria last year where Massa claimed his only pole of the year.
Today’s qualifying outcome however will not truly represent tomorrow’s grid given the penalties handed out for engine or other changes.
Alonso and Button’s qualifying positions were meaningless in most given both drivers will start the race from the back of the grid following 25-place grid penalties each for various engine component changes. Red Bull’s Kvyat and Ricciardo will also join the duo towards the rear of the field after they were forced to take a new engine as well.
This means despite Kvyat qualifying in 8th, he will start down in 18th with Ricciardo further behind. McLaren will also have to take a drive through and stop-go penalties with both drivers as they are unable to serve all grid drop positions.