Lewis Hamilton has equalled Sebastian Vettel’s tally of 45 Formula 1 pole positions with the fastest time in qualifying for Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix.
The reigning champion edged out Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg by two-tenths of a second in the final reckoning, although both drivers – incredibly – went off on their final flying laps in Q3.
There was no tactics or brinkmanship here this time; it was simply two drivers who exceeded their limits in their battle to beat each other to pole position.
Hamilton’s mistake came with a spin under braking at Turn 1, while Rosberg – who clocked a personal best in Sector 1 and the fastest overall time in Sector 2 – threw away a certain pole position by going wide at the final corner and beaching his F1W06 in the gravel.
The German endured a very embarrassing walk back to the pits in front of the main start/finish grandstands.
Both drivers, therefore, had to rely on the first flying laps of the session, which ultimately proved good enough to claim another front-row lockout for the Silver Arrows.
It was a result that few perhaps expected after highly competitive showings from Ferrari in the preceding practice sessions, but the red cars failed to deliver when it came to deciding the grid positions.
Four-time champion Sebastian Vettel finished third-fastest – 0.355 seconds adrift of Hamilton – after improving on his final run, but qualifying was an unmitigated disaster for teammate Kimi Räikkönen, who was eliminated in Q1 after failing to improve his lap time on a steadily drying track surface.
Earlier rain and a rapidly drying tarmac created the potential for some upset results in Q1, and no one was more surprised than the Finn himself, as evidenced by his pit-to-car radio outburst at the end of the session.
Räikkönen’s qualifying failure provided some solace for his former team, McLaren, who managed to get Fernando Alonso into Q2. The Spaniard was, however, easily the slowest driver in the top-fifteen session, and will take a theoretical 20-place grid penalty for exceeding his power unit element allocations.
The same fate will befall teammate Jenson Button – handed a theoretical 25-place drop, for changing more elements than Alonso – but the Briton once again failed to make it beyond Q1.
Alonso aside, Q2 proved to be a closely-fought affair, with the rest of those missing the cut – Pastor Maldonado, Marcus Ericsson, Carlos Sainz Jr and Daniel Ricciardo (who cops a 10-place grid drop) – covered by just 0.1 seconds on the stopwatch.
The final session was a nine-car affair when Romain Grosjean’s Lotus was stricken with an apparent brake-by-wire failure that forced the Frenchman back into the pits.
Behond the top three of Hamilton, Rosberg and Vettel came last year’s pole-winner, Felipe Massa, who put his Williams fourth-fastest, two spots ahead of teammate Valtteri Bottas. The pair sandwiched the impressive Nico Hülkenberg in the unfancied Force India.
Toro Rosso rookie Max Verstappen shaded Daniil Kvyat in the senior Red Bull Racing entry by less than 0.1 seconds to post the seventh-fastest time. They were followed by Sauber rookie Felipe Nasr, who gave his best qualifying performance since April’s Chinese Grand Prix.
Sunday’s 71-lap Austrian Grand Prix gets under way at 14:00 local time (GMT +2).
|Formula 1 Grosser Preis von Österreich 2015 – Qualifying Results|
|Pos||Q3 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap||Laps|
|1.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W06 Hybrid||1:08.455||30|
|2.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W06 Hybrid||1:08.655||+ 0.200||31|
|3.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF15-T||1:08.810||+ 0.355||21|
|4.||Felipe Massa||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW37||1:09.192||+ 0.737||27|
|5.||Nico Hülkenberg||Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM08||1:09.278||+ 0.823||22|
|6.||Valtteri Bottas||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW37||1:09.319||+ 0.864||26|
|7.||Max Verstappen||Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR10||1:09.612||+ 1.157||28|
|8.||Daniil Kvyat^||Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB11||1:09.694||+ 1.239||32|
|9.||Felipe Nasr||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C34||1:09.713||+ 1.258||29|
|10.||Romain Grosjean||Lotus F1 Team Mercedes E23 Hybrid||no time||+ 0.801||22|
|Pos||Q2 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap*||Laps|
|11.||Pastor Maldonado||Lotus F1 Team Mercedes E23 Hybrid||1:10.374||+ 1.740||22|
|12.||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C34||1:10.426||+ 1.792||20|
|13.||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR10||1:10.465||+ 1.831||23|
|14.||Daniel Ricciardo^||Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB11||1:10.482||+ 1.848||19|
|15.||Fernando Alonso^||McLaren Honda MP4-30||1:10.736||+ 2.102||22|
|Pos||Q1 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap**||Laps|
|16.||Sergio Pérez||Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM08||1:12.522||+ 1.546||13|
|17.||Jenson Button^||McLaren Honda MP4-30||1:12.632||+ 1.656||12|
|18.||Kimi Räikkönen||Scuderia Ferrari SF15-T||1:12.867||+ 1.891||10|
|19.||Roberto Merhi||Manor Marussia F1 Team Ferrari MR03||1:14.071||+ 3.095||12|
|20.||Will Stevens||Manor Marussia F1 Team Ferrari MR03||1:15.368||+ 4.392||11|
* Denotes gap to fastest Q2 time of 1:08.634 posted by Nico Rosberg
** Denotes gap to fastest Q1 time of 1:10.976 posted by Nico Rosberg
Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat drop 10 grid places for using a fifth power unit element
Fernando Alonso drops 20 grid places for using a fifth internal combustion engine, turbocharger and MGU-H
Jenson Button drops 25 grid places for using a sixth turbocharger, a fifth internal combustion engine and MGU-H.
Images via Mercedes AMG F1 Petronas