Hamilton takes Austria pole as both Mercedes drivers spin off in Q3

1 Comment

Lewis Hamilton will start tomorrow’s Austrian Grand Prix from the front of the grid after securing pole position during Saturday’s qualifying session at the Red Bull Ring.

Hamilton posted a fastest lap time of 1:08.455 to finish two-tenths ahead of teammate Nico Rosberg in second place as Mercedes once again dominated proceedings in Austria.

WATCH REPLAY: Austrian GP Qualifying

The Briton appeared to have blown his chance of scoring pole position when he spun off during his final qualifying run, only for Rosberg to do the same and miss his opportunity to snatch it away.

The result also completed a perfect year of pole positions for Mercedes, with the 2014 Austrian Grand Prix being the last race at which one of the German marque’s cars did not start from first place on the grid.

Following a sharp rain shower towards the end of FP3 on Saturday morning, Q1 got underway in damp conditions, forcing the drivers to complete their initial runs on intermediate tires. However, as a dry line began to emerge, Felipe Nasr, Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas were the first to make the switch to soft tires, with their pace then prompting the rest of the field to do the same.

As the track continued to improve, avoiding elimination quickly became a question of timing and running as late as possible. A mistimed lap by Ferrari caused Kimi Raikkonen to drop out in Q1, finishing 18th ahead of Roberto Merhi and Will Stevens. McLaren’s miserable weekend continued as Jenson Button was left 17th, although Fernando Alonso did squeeze through in P15 ahead of Force India’s Sergio Perez.

Q2 saw the track become far drier, allowing Mercedes to resume normal service at the head of the field as Rosberg and Hamilton finished first and second respectively. However, Hamilton still struggled to find much rhythm, much as he had in practice, suggesting that the advantage remained with Rosberg heading into Q3.

Daniel Ricciardo was the biggest name to be eliminated in Q2, marking the first time that he has failed to reach Q3 in 2015 as he qualified 14th ahead of McLaren’s Fernando Alonso. Pastor Maldonado was unable to keep up his good qualifying form, finishing 11th ahead of Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson and Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz Jr.

The Mercedes drivers once again exchanged blows at the start of Q3, with Rosberg laying down the first benchmark of 1:08.850 to claim provisional pole position. Hamilton could only slot into second place with his initial effort, going three-tenths of a second slower, but he bounced back with a scintillating second lap to edge out the improving Rosberg by two-tenths of a second ahead of the final runs.

When Hamilton spun off at turn two in his final qualifying lap after the checkered flag had been shown, pole position appeared to be there for Rosberg to take. Despite setting personal bests in the first two sectors, Rosberg made an error at the final corner to leave his Mercedes in the gravel, meaning that Hamilton’s time for provisional pole ultimately stood.

Sebastian Vettel qualified third for Ferrari ahead of Felipe Massa and Nico Hulkenberg, with the latter splitting the two Williams drivers by finishing ahead of Valtteri Bottas.

Max Verstappen finished seventh for Toro Rosso ahead of Daniil Kvyat, whilst Felipe Nasr and Romain Grosjean rounded out the top ten.

The Austrian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 7:30am ET on Sunday.