Championship leader Lewis Hamilton achieved his 45th career pole position in Formula 1, as both Mercedes drivers went off during their final laps of qualifying.
The Canadian Grand Prix winner led the times after the first tuns in Q3 by two tenths of a second from his team-mate Nico Rosberg, but spun under braking for Turn 1 when attempting to secure the top spot.
Rosberg set a personal best time in the first sector, then the fastest time of all in the second sector, before he too went off. The Monaco Grand Prix winner had to settle with second place with his Silver Arrows stuck in the gravel at the final corner.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel improved on his final run in Q3, but this was good enough for only third position, 0.155 seconds slower than Rosberg’s earlier effort.
Last year’s Austrian Grand Prix pole star Felipe Massa was fourth fastest for Williams, while Le Mans 24 Hours winner Nico Hulkenberg produced a superb effort by splitting Massa from his Williams team-mate Valtteri Bottas by recording the fifth quickest time for Force India.
Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen shaded Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat by less than a tenth of a second to post the seventh fastest time, as behind him Sauber’s Felipe Nasr recorded his best qualifying result since the Chinese Grand Prux by going ninth.
Romain Grosjean’s Lotus failed to set a time in Q3, after a suspected brake by wire problem forced him back into the pits early on.
Team-mate Pastor Maldonado missed out on the top ten shootout by 0.187 seconds as track conditions improved in Q2, while Marcus Ericsson’s Sauber, the Toro Rosso of Carlos Sainz, and Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull qualified on the same tenth of a second in P12, P13 and P14 but some way adrift of their respective team-mates, who all made Q3.
Sainz complained of traffic on his fast lap, while Ricciardo briefly ran off the track at Turn 3 before failing to make the top ten shootout for the first time this season.
Fernando Alonso managed to push his McLaren-Honda through to Q2, but the MP4-30’s lack of grunt left him adrift of the rest in P15.
Due to the many power unit upgrades and penalities, Alonso will technically start the race from P40!
Improving track conditions throughout a Q1 that began damp meant laptimes tumbled as the session reached its climax, creating the potential for upsets.
Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen was the highest-profile driver in this segment, The Iceman missing the Q2 cut by 0.359 seconds and winding up P18, much to his own surprise over team radio.
Force India’s Sergio Perez also missed out, just 0.014 seconds slower than Alonso’s McLaren, while Jenson Button had been fastest at one point, before slipping back to P17 at the end.
Like his McLaren team-mate, Button will have a massive grid penalty due to the many power unit changes. The 2009 world champion will start the Austrian Grand Prix in P42!
Roberto Merhi outqualified his team-mate Will Stevens, who went off early on in the wetter conditions, by more than 1.3 seconds as the Manor Marussias again qualified slowest of all twenty cars.
Both McLarens and both Red Bulls will be hit with grid penalties for unscheduled engine changes this weekend, so will drop to the back of the grid.
Qualifying positions, Austrian Grand Prix:
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m08.455s
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m08.655s
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m08.810s
4 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1m09.192s
5 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1m09.278s
6 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 1m09.319s
7 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso-Renault 1m09.612s
8 Felipe Nasr Sauber-Ferrari 1m09.713s
9 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Mercedes No time
10 Pastor Maldonado Lotus-Mercedes 1m10.374s
11 Marcus Ericsson Sauber-Ferrari 1m10.426s
12 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso-Renault 1m10.465s
13 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1m12.522s
14 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m12.867s
15 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull-Renault 1m09.694s*
16 Roberto Merhi Marussia-Ferrari 1m14.071s
17 Will Stevens Marussia-Ferrari 1m15.368s
18 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault 1m10.482s*
19 Fernando Alonso McLaren-Honda 1m10.736s*
20 Jenson Button McLaren-Honda 1m12.632s*
*Kvyat, Ricciardo, Alonso and Button all have penalties