Hamilton on pole for Austrian GP despite both Mercedes off track in qualifying
Lewis Hamilton took pole position for the Austrian Grand Prix ahead of team mate Nico Rosberg in the strangest circumstances, as both Mercedes cars...
Lewis Hamilton took pole position for the Austrian Grand Prix ahead of team mate Nico Rosberg in the strangest circumstances, as both Mercedes cars went off track on their final runs in Q3.
Rosberg was on target for pole when he went straight on in the final corner, after Hamilton had gone off at Turn 2.
Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel was third ahead of the Williams of Felipe Massa and the Force India of Nico Hulkenberg. He split the Williams with a great lap, boosted no doubt by his Le Mans win last weekend.
It is Hamilton's 45th career pole position - tying Vettel for third in the all time list - and his seventh in eight races this season. This equals his best total in any season of F1 with less than half the season done.
It also marks a complete year of pole positions for Mercedes. The last time they failed to take pole was at this circuit last season. Interestingly, Hamilton's lap was only 0.547s slower than the all time lap record at the track, set in 2003 by Michael Schumacher in a 3 litre V10 engined Ferrari during a tyre war.
"It was quite a difficult session for everyone with the track conditions. It was great that I got my third lap in on the first run in Q3, I was pushing for that bit extra but I just lost the rears," said Hamilton.
Rosberg said, "I'm gutted. I'm not sure what happened, I went on the astro turf on the second to last corner and maybe I overdid it. Lewis was 2/10ths quicker than my lap time and I was exactly 2/10ths up at that point so I knew I had to push it."
Vettel was not close enough to be able to capitalise; the Ferrari driver got the maximum from the car, but the Mercedes powered cars seemed once again to step up in the decisive moment in qualifying.
Meanwhile Ferrari again had a car eliminated in Q1, this time Kimi Raikkonen failing to make the cut, but not due to any obvious technical problem; the Finn appeared unable to get temperature into his tyres when it mattered early on and a miscommunication with the team over the number of timed laps on the run didn't help. He thought he was trying for three laps, but there was only time for two.
Despite only having nine corners and the shortest lap time of the season, the Red Bull Ring presents quite a challenge to the drivers; it's a difficult track to find extra time on if the margins are tight, as they were today. But things were complicated by the conditions.
It was largely a dry session, but not straightforward as the track was damp at the start of the hour and it remained cool, with tyre temperature hard to generate for many of the cars.
Qualifying was again disastrous for one of the Ferraris; Kimi Raikkonen was only 18th having not managed to get the lap time on a drying track.
Engine and gearbox penalties for both McLarens and both Red Bull cars opened up possibilities for the midfield runners.
Rain in the final practice session had cleared up by the start of the qualifying session. The cars went out initially on intermediate tyres, but soon were making a switch to slick tyres. Initial runs showed the Mercedes and Toro Rosso cars able to get temperature quickly into the tyres, a pattern we have seen regularly this season. Sainz was 7/10th faster than Kyyat's Red Bull at the same time in same conditions, for example.
In the Q1 session Nasr and Maldonado were the first to go to slicks. As a dry line appeared, everyone went across with seven minutes to go. Both Mercedes cars went for the supersoft, Williams opted for softs. By the end of the session, as the lap times tumbled everyone had no choice but to run supersofts.
Kvyat was under pressure with only one lap to get into Q2 and managed to make 8th. Raikkonen meanwhile dropped out in 18th and Jenson Button 17th. Also eliminated were Perez, Mehri and Stevens.
"I was sent out too late and that cost us a lot. The end result is that we somehow managed to end up out of Q2. It's a bad day and its not going to help us for tomorrow," said a bemused and dejected Raikkonen.
Sainz and Verstappen meanwhile had another eye catching performance with second and fourth positions respectively in Q1.
In the cooler temperatures, the supersoft tyres were graining as the times came down in Q2 and the lap times approached the sort of pace we'd seen in fully dry running. Rosberg and Hamilton set the pace, but the margin was 4/10ths in Rosberg's favour as the German looked the more comfortable and Hamilton struggled to get in the groove.
Sainz had a disappointing run in Q2 and failed to make the cut in 13th, while both Lotus cars were under pressure but Grosjean made it through. At Red Bull, Daniil Kvyat in 10th out qualified his team mate Daniel Ricciardo again, making it 5-3 in the head to head this season. Ricciardo clearly had more problems to get tyre temperature than the Russian. Felipe Nasr did a strong job to make the cut for the top 10. It was Sauber's first appearance in Q3 since China.
Hulkenberg, Nasr and Verstappen had only one new set of supersofts available for Q3, so had to go out on used tyres for their opening runs.
Grosjean had a brake by wire problem early in Q3. Rosberg set the fastest first lap in Q3; Hamilton had been struggling with front-end grip, especially in the middle sector, where he was losing most of his time to Rosberg. But both cars were fuelled for two timed laps and on the second Hamilton edged his team mate into second, with Vettel in 3rd.
It was an important psychological blow again in their in-house battle as only twice since the start of 2014 has the provisional pole been overturned between the pair.
Williams stepped up to challenge with Massa fourth ahead of Bottas after the first runs.
In the final runs Hamilton didm't push on the first flying lap and focussed on preparing the tyres for the second lap. But he spun at Turn 2 on the decisive lap. Rosberg set a personal best first sector and the fastest middle sector of all. Rosberg went off as well in the final corner, handing Hamilton the pole position.
Austrian Grand Prix, Red Bull Ring, Qualifying (after grid penalties applied)
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m08.455s -
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m08.655s 0.200s
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m08.810s 0.355s
4 Felipe Massa Williams 1m09.192s 0.737s
5 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1m09.278s 0.823s
6 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1m09.319s 0.864s
7 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso 1m09.612s 1.157s
8 Felipe Nasr Sauber 1m09.713s 1.258s
9 Romain Grosjean Lotus - -
10 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1m10.374s -
11 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1m10.426s -
12 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1m10.465s -
13 Sergio Perez Force India 1m12.522s -14 Kim
Williams duo "in the fight" for Austrian GP podium
Grosjean qualifies P9 and Maldonado P10 for the Austrian GP
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