Valtteri Bottas narrowly beat Sebastian Vettel to pole position in the Austrian Grand Prix, while Lewis Hamilton will start no better than eighth place thanks to a gearbox penalty.
Bottas’s Mercedes led the Ferrari of championship leader Vettel by less than a tenth after the first runs in Q3, with Hamilton’s Mercedes 0.131 seconds further back in third.
All drivers lost their opportunity to improve on the second Q3 runs after Romain Grosjean’s Haas broke down at the exit of Turn 3 while he tried to adjust his engine settings, and Max Verstappen’s Red Bull spun into the gravel at the exit of Turn 7.
Bottas therefore secured his second pole in Formula 1, and will share the front row with team-mate Hamilton’s title rival Vettel.
Hamilton was already more than two tenths down on his earlier best through the first sector on his second lap and he also suffered a wobble on the exit of Turn 4, so would not likely have qualified better than third fastest.
He used the super-soft Pirelli to progress through Q2, so will start the race on an alternative tyre strategy following his five-place grid penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change.
Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen was fourth quickest, just ahead of the Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen, who was struggling with oversteer through Turn 3 before his high-speed spin.
Grosjean ended up seventh quickest thanks to a strong first run, while Force India team-mates Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon were eighth and ninth, separated by less than a tenth.
Carlos Sainz’s Toro Rosso made Q3 for the first time since the Monaco Grand Prix and completes the top ten.
Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg only just failed to displace Ocon’s Force India from the top ten shootout in Q2, falling short by 0.047 seconds.
Hulkenberg was only five thousandths of a second quicker than Fernando Alonso’s Spec-2 engined McLaren-Honda, which failed to improve during its second run.
Alonso’s team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne, running the quicker Spec-3 Honda power unit, was happy to qualify P13, the 0.139 seconds gap to Alonso being the closest Vandoorne has managed to get to his illustrious team-mate so far this season.
Daniil Kvyat had a difficult qualifying session and ended up only P14 for Toro Rosso, while Kevin Magnussen ended up last of the Q2 runners, having failed to participate in that segment of qualifying after his Haas suffered a rear suspension failure in Q1.
Vandoorne escaped Q1 for only the second time this season, denying Renault’s Jolyon Palmer a place in Q2 by just 0.029 seconds with a late improvement.
Palmer failed to improve on his final lap, dropping nearly a tenth compared to his earlier best, so he wound up P16.
Williams endured its worst qualifying session of the season, with both drivers failing to escape Q1. This was such a big contrast to 2014, in which the team recorded a front row lock-out at the Red Bull Ring.
Felipe Massa was more than two tenths away from making the cut and was only P17, while team-mate Lance Stroll was another 0.074 seconds down in P18.
Marcus Ericsson got the better of Sauber team-mate Pascal Wehrlein, lapping only 0.249 seconds away from Stroll, having been more than half a second off the next fastest car in final practice.
So an anticlimax end to qualifying caused by a yellow flag. Bottas the winner in qualifying – his second pole position this season – but all focus are on Vettel and Hamilton following that bash in Baku. Sebastian is in a good position to score big thanks to second on the grid, while Lewis has work to do with eighth.
The Austrian Grand Prix is going to be fascinating in terms of the championship and supreme between the title rivals. Bring on the battle at the Red Bull Ring!
Austrian Grand Prix, qualifying positions:
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m04.251s
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m04.293s
3 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m04.779s
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault 1m04.896s
5 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Renault 1m04.983s
6 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 1m05.480s
7 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1m05.605s
8 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m04.424s*
9 Esteban Ocon Force India-Mercedes 1m05.674s
10 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso-Renault 1m05.726s
11 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1m05.597s
12 Fernando Alonso McLaren-Honda 1m05.602s
13 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren-Honda 1m05.741s
14 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Renault 1m05.884s
15 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari No time
16 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1m06.345s
17 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1m06.534s
18 Lance Stroll Williams-Mercedes 1m06.608s
19 Marcus Ericsson Sauber-Ferrari 1m06.857s
20 Pascal Wehrlein Sauber-Ferrari 1m07.011s
*Five-place grid penalty for changing gearbox