Both Mercedes spin on final Quali lap but it’s Hamilton’s lucky Pole while Rosberg blows it for P2; Vettel another P3 for Ferrari
When Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton spun his Silver Arrow at the beginning of his final Quali lap in Turn 1 of the Red Bull Ring, he must have thought he’d thrown the Pole away. His archrival Nico Rosberg was ahead of him on a blistering lap unaffected by the local yellow flag that Hamilton’s off generated. But coming into the last corner looking like he would snatch the top spot away from his English teammate Rosberg had a spin of his own, spoiling his chance to start from P1 and ceding the Pole back to Hamilton. Hamilton does seem to struggle on the short, twisty, up and down Austrian circuit while Rosberg seems quite comfortable. But if history is any guide Hamilton rarely relinquishes the lead when he starts from the front. So again it could be that Rosberg has in essence lost the Grand Prix on Saturday, as the mentally fragile German seems to have a hard time winning from behind when the lights go out on Sunday.
Ferrari had bewilderingly mixed results, with Sebastian Vettel running behind the high-powered Mercedes duo and fast enough for P3 but Kimi Raikkonen strangely in the pits on a rapidly drying track as time ran out in Q1, thereby getting bounced out in the first round. The Finnish veteran’s status and uncertain future with the Prancing Horse for next year was definitely not helped by that perplexing turn of events. He’ll start a lowly P18 and have to fight through a host of backmarkers for any chance of points. Williams’ Felipe Massa, last year’s Austria Pole-sitter, was not quite as quick this Saturday and came home P4, with teammate Valtteri Bottas a decent P6. Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg, the impressive German racer who last week was part of the winning driver lineup for the victorious Porsche prototype at the 24 hours of Le Mans, converted that extra confidence into an impressive P5 (by contrast, his teammate Sergio Perez could do no better than P16).
17-year-old rookie Max Verstappen took P7 for Toro Rosso, Daniil Kvyat was P8 for the senior Red Bull team, Felipe Nasr had his first really good Quali in weeks with a solid P9 and Lotus’ Romain Grosjean got the last top 10 spot on the grid, although he did not turn a lap in Q3.
Both McLarens will start from the rear of the field because not only did they not make it out of Q1 but they also face a raft of massive grid spot and time penalties for engine change infractions. Red Bull’s Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo have also burned through their engine component allotments early and they too will face grid penalties on Sunday.
Top 10 qualifiers for the Austrian GP:
Complete Qualifying results available via Formula1.com.
Tomorrow’s Austrian Grand Prix airs live on NBC Sports at 8AM Eastern. With so many nominally fast cars starting from the rear of the field the action from the Red Bull Ring should be fast and frantic. The battle for dominance between Mercedes teammates at the front could well be equally hectic. Hope to see you then.