Lewis Hamilton secured pole position for the Austrian Grand Prix during a rain affected qualifying session.
He edged out team-mate Nico Rosberg by 0.543s but a penalty for changing his gear box after a crash in FP3 means the German will start from sixth.
Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg will join Hamilton at the front of the grid after an impressive qualifying. McLaren’s Jenson Button starts in third.
Dramatic End to Qualifying
The Red Bull Ring delivered an action-packed qualifying session and the onset of rain towards the end of Q2 only heightened the drama.
The rain stopped before Q3 but the track remained wet so all of the drivers began on intermediate tyres. The lap times tumbled quickly on the drying track before the teams scramble their drivers into the pits – amid some chaotic scenes – to change them onto slick tyres with Hamilton leading Button, Ricciardo and Rosberg.
Back on the track, it came down to the last driver crossing the line at the end of Q3 being the best placed to have the driest – and best – conditions to set the fastest lap.
The lead on the qualifying board changed quickly with Massa, Raikkonen, Hamilton, Hulkenberg, Vettel, and then Hamilton again all having turns at the top.
In the end, it was Hamilton who took pole with a lap of 1m 07.922s. Rosberg was next with 1m 08.465s, and Hulkenberg was third on 1m 09.285s ahead of Vettel on 1m 09.781s. But the Ferrari driver will take a 5 place grid penalty for earlier changing his gear box so he will start from ninth.
“Today I have found the time and made lots of improvements,” reflected Lewis Hamilton.
“Nothing beats a situation when you achieve your targets.”
Mixed Field Sets up Exciting Race
The combination of rain during qualifying and grid penalties to Rosberg and Vettel offers spectators a potentially mouth-watering prospect.
Rosberg, in particular, will be eager to work his way through the field as quickly as possible to challenge Hamilton.
Meanwhile, the Red Bull Ring should suit Hulkenberg with his Force India having strong straight line speed and Button will be desperate to retain his third spot after a great qualifying drive.
“We’re not quick enough to fight for the win, but I will give it my heart and soul to get the best out of the car,” said Button.
“At the moment though I’m just going to enjoy this. I think it gives everyone a bit of a kick, and hopefully helps us all in the future.”
But fellow McLaren driver, Fernando Alonso, ended qualifying frustrated with team errors.
He was sent out by mistake on used tyres for the one lap he got in second qualifying and was inevitably a long way off the pace.
Alonso’s attempt to improve the time on new tyres was ended by yellow caution flags and then rain. The Spaniard will start 14th.
Mind The Bump
The biggest talking point so far from Spielberg is the new kerb design causing suspension failures for Sergio Perez and Daniil Kyvat.
Perez managed to limp back into the pits but Kyvat – drifting wide on the exit of Turn 8 – broke his right rear suspension over the punishing kerbs before ending up in the gravel slide off area.
The Red Bull driver – at the team’s ‘home’ track – criticized the kerbs.
“Once you’re on those kerbs you’re not in control if the suspension breaks. At least on the AstroTurf, you had control.”
“At the last corner, everyone is going off four wheels – they wanted to make it better but actually they made it worse.”
The race will start at 14:00 local time and will run over 71 laps.