Hamilton takes pole position at the Red Bull Ring.

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton took pole position during a chaotic qualifying session at the Red Bull Ring in Austria. The qualifying session started out dry until the rain came in and turned it to a wet session before the track then dried out again and the end of the session was dry. Hamilton will start on pole position for the 2016 Austrian GP. Qualifying one started dry, by the end of qualifying two the rain began falling but by the end of qualifying three the track was drying, Hamilton’s pole position time was set in Q3 and it was 1:07.922. He was one of the last drivers to cross the line during the qualifying session. His Mercedes AMG Petronas teammate Nico Rosberg was second but five tenths off of the pole position lap time. The German has to serve a five place grid penalty after having his gearbox changed after his shunt in the third free practice session.

There was drama right from the start of qualifying as Daniil Kvyat had quite a big crash in his Toro Rosso car with two minutes of Q1 remaining. He went onto the kerb on the inside of the final turn, this was how he sustained right rear suspension failure. Kvyat was then spat across the track and into barriers after hitting the tyre wall on the exit of the turn. He managed to escape uninjured after the accident and was able to get out of his smoking Toro Rosso car without assistance. The red flags were brought out to allow recovery teams to remove the heavily damaged car from the circuit. Kvyat was the third driver to suffer suspension failure during the day so far. Rosberg had a big off in free practice three, Sergio Perez had the same issue earlier in the first qualifying session and now Kvyat became the third victim.

The incident that occurred affected many of the remaining drivers during the remainder of Q1 before rain began to fall towards the end of Q2. There was a short delay before the shower of rain was over, it became clear very quickly that the track was drying out quicker than expected due to the heat. Nico Hülkenberg was one of the drivers to benefit from the weather changes, he took a brilliant third position for Sahara Force India for the Austrian GP. He was the first driver brave enough to head out on the dry tyre when the circuit was damp in Q3. His risk paid off and with Rosberg having to serve a grid penalty meaning Hülkenberg will start from second on the grid alongside Hamilton.

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel finished the session in fourth place after hesitating about when to switch to the dry tyres during Q3. He alo has to serve a five place grid penalty after having to change gearboxes before the start of the race weekend. Vettel will start the race on the super-soft tyres whereas the Mercedes drivers will start on the ultra-soft tyres. A superb final lap from Jenson Button put him into fifth on the grid, his and the McLaren-Honda team’s best performance so far this year. He timed it perfectly to swap onto the slick tyres as the track began to dry out in the final closing minutes of Q3. This was the first time Button has made it through Q2 since Abu Dhabi in 2014.

Kimi Raikkonen in the second Ferrari was sixth ahead of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo. Both Ricciardo and Max Verstappen both decided to run on the super-soft tyres in Q2. Rosberg and Vettel both have penalties which will see Ricciardo moved up two places. Valtteri Botas was the first Williams Martini Racing drivers in eighth place with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in ninth. Felipe Massa rounded out the top ten qualifiers. Esteban Gutierrez finished the qualifying session in eleventh place, two places ahead of Haas F1 teammate Romain Grosjean. Pascal Wehrlein for Manor Racing was the car in twelfth splitting the teammates. The green flags were waved with just two minutes of Q1 remaining after Kvyat’s off. Due to only having two minutes remaining it made it very difficult for any drivers to improve. This saw Wehrlein go through to Q2 in his Manor Racing entry. McLaren’s Fernando Alonso finished in fourteenth after suffering a mix up with tyres, when the tyre warming blankets were removed for the Spanish driver to do a final run they realised they were old tyres rather than the new he and mechanics were expecting. By the time new tyres had been got out and fitted to the car he managed to get out on track to find yellow flags causing him to abort the lap, the rain then began to fall which meant he was unable to improve his times.

The session went from bad to worse for the Toro Rosso team, Carlos Sainz suffered an engine blow out in the final minutes of Q1. He qualified fifteenth but will no doubt be handed a penalty for having an engine change ahead of the race. Force India’s Sergio Perez was thirteenth fastest in Q1 but a right rear suspension failure ended his session early, he finished the overall times down in sixteenth, he is likely to receive a penalty following the repairs made to the car. Renault Sport teammates Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer finished in seventeenth and eighteenth, once again they were knocked out of qualifying early. The manor car of Rio Haryanto was nineteenth followed by Daniil Kvyat after his crashed with the two Sauber F1 cars in the hands of Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr finishing the grid. The weather played a vital role during the sessions which shook up the grid and with different teams using different tyre strategies also showed to help some teams but hinder others.


©Fay Tilley 3rd June 2016.