Lewis Hamilton has secured pole position for the Austrian Grand Prix ahead of Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg and Force India’s Nico Hülkenberg, however it will be a Hamilton-Hülkenberg front row thanks to a five-place grid penalty for Rosberg.

The final stages of Q3 saw provisional pole swap between over half of the top ten as track conditions improved in the wake of a brief downpour of rain at the end of Q2.

All drivers started the session on the intermediate tyre, but it was Hülkenberg who made the call to switch to slicks with only a handful of minutes left, giving him a slight advantage of understanding the tyre.

However, it’s not even certain that Hülkenberg will line up on the front row of the grid, as the German is under investigation by the FIA Stewards as he set his fastest lap in Q2 under yellow flag conditions.

McLaren’s Jenson Button made it into Q3 for the first time since Abu Dhabi in 2014 and will provisionally line up on the second row of the grid following Sebastian Vettel and Rosberg’s respective grid penalties.

Daniel Ricciardo qualified behind Kimi Räikkönen in seventh position, while his Red Bull Racing teammate Max Verstappen was unable to beat Valtteri Bottas’ time and start the race in ninth position ahead of the second Williams of Felipe Massa.

During Q2, Ferrari opted for an alternate strategy for tomorrow’s race as both Vettel and Räikkönen set their best time on the super-soft tyre. This means that the pair will start the race on that set whereas the rest of the top 10 will have to start on the ultra-softs.

Mercedes attempted to respond to Ferrari’s gamble and put Rosberg and Hamilton on the super softs to try and set a best lap on the compound, however, they were too late as the rain started to fall as both drivers were out on their flying laps.

Scuderia Toro Rosso had a day to forget as both of their drivers exited qualifying due to mechanical failures.

Daniil Kvyat was on a flying lap and attempting to get himself out of the elimination zone when he rode the new kerbs at the exit of Turn 8, which caused his right rear suspension to fail.

The failure sent the Russian into a spin where he collided with the inside barrier of Turn 9 and was pitched into the gravel where the tyre barriers eventually stopped his mangled Toro Rosso.

The red flag was brought out immediately as Kvyat hopped out of the car, thankfully OK, and made his way back to the garage as the marshals worked out removing the car from the gravel.

With just under two minutes left once Q1 resumed, drivers in danger of being eliminated from qualifying lined up at pit exit to quickly take to the track to improve their lap time.

However, no driver was able to improve because as soon as the session went green, the yellow flag was brought out as Carlos Sainz’s Toro Rosso pulled over to the side of the track with smoke pouring from the back of the car.

Sainz was running in 11th position, although took no further part in qualifying.

Both the Renault and the Sauber drivers along with Rio Haryanto joined Kvyat in being eliminated from the Q1 session.

Pascal Wehrlein managed an incredible lap before the red flag to move up to ninth position, just over a second off Rosberg’s pace, seeing the Manor Racing team make Q2 for the first time this season.

The rookie driver then continued his in-form performance by setting the twelfth-quickest time in Q2, ahead of Haas F1’s Romain Grosjean and McLaren’s Fernando Alonso. The result equalled Manor’s best qualifying performance set by Jules Bianchi at the 2014 British Grand Prix.

Sergio Pérez’s qualifying ended prematurely when he was forced to return to the pits with a suspension failure. The Mexican had been running thirteenth-fastest when his session came to an end.

Q3 Qualifiers Team / Entry Result Gap
1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 W07 Hybrid 1:07.922
2. Nico Rosberg^ de Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 W07 Hybrid 1:08.465 + 0.543
3. Nico Hülkenberg de Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM09 1:09.285 + 1.363
4. Sebastian Vettel^ de Scuderia Ferrari SF16-H 1:09.781 + 1.859
5. Jenson Button McLaren-Honda MP4-31 1:09.900 + 1.978
6. Kimi Räikkönen fi Scuderia Ferrari SF16-H 1:09.901 + 1.979
7. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB12 1:09.980 + 2.058
8. Valtteri Bottas fi Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW38 1:10.440 + 2.518
9. Max Verstappen nl Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB12 1:11.153 + 3.231
10. Felipe Massa br Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW38 1:11.977 + 4.055
Q2 Qualifiers Team / Entry Result Gap**
11. Esteban Gutiérrez Haas F1 Ferrari VF-16 1:07.578 + 1.350
12. Pascal Wehrlein de Manor Racing Mercedes MRT5 1:07.700 + 1.472
13. Romain Grosjean fr Haas F1 Ferrari VF-16 1:07.850 + 1.622
14. Fernando Alonso es McLaren-Honda MP4-31 1:08.154 + 1.926
15. Carlos Sainz Jr es Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR11 no time
16. Sergio Pérez Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM09 no time
Q1 Qualifiers Team / Entry Result Gap*
17. Kevin Magnussen dk Renault Sport F1 Team RS16 1:07.941 + 1.425
18. Jolyon Palmer Renault Sport F1 Team RS16 1:07.965 + 1.449
19. Rio Haryanto id Manor Racing Mercedes MRT5 1:08.026 + 1.510
20. Daniil Kvyat ru Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR11 1:08.409 + 1.893
21. Marcus Ericsson Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C35 1:08.418 + 1.902
22. Felipe Nasr br Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C35 1:08.446 + 1.930

* Denotes gap to fastest Q1 time of 1:06.516 posted by Nico Rosberg
** Denotes gap to fastest Q2 time of 1:06.228 posted by Lewis Hamilton

^Post-Qualifying Penalties:

  • Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel will serve five-place grid penalties for unscheduled gearbox changes.
  • Jolyon Palmer, Rio Haryanto and Felipe Nasr will each serve three-place grid penalties for failing to respect waved yellow flags during qualifying.

Image via XPB Images

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Josh Kruse

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