Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Red Bull Ring, 2016

Hamilton takes pole in dramatic damp qualifying session

2016 Austrian Grand Prix qualifying

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Lewis Hamilton was fastest in a damp qualifying session, penalties for Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel means that Nico Hulkenberg will line up second, Jenson Button in third position. The session was dramatically affected by suspension failures and changeable conditions.


Nico Rosberg emerged from the pitlane with nine minutes to go in the first session in his repaired Mercedes and immediately set a record laptime of 1’06.690. His team mate Lewis Hamilton could only manage a time 0.431s slower, still struggling to match his pace. Sebastian Vettel split the Mercedes, showing the potential of the Ferrari package, two and a half tenths behind Rosberg.

Pascal Wehrlein kept up his good form from the practice sessions to finish in P10, only 1.049 seconds away from Rosberg’s fastest time.

The story of the session was again the occurrence suspension failure, firstly Sergio Perez limped home all the way from turn one, followed by a huge accident from Daniil Kvyat after his right rear suspension collapsed as he bounced over the kerbs on the outside of turn seven.

The session restarted with a flurry of activity as with only 1 minute 44 seconds to go the drivers grappled to find a clear track, only to be thwarted by yellow flags caused by Carlos Sainz’s stricken Toro Rosso, with plumes of smoke from the exhaust.

Nico Hulkenberg was the only driver to improve and shortly afterwards the stewards advised that he was under investigation for not slowing sufficiently under the yellow flags. The decision will be due shortly after the end of the session.

A combination of improvements in car design and the introduction of the ultrasoft tyre for this season meant that even Felipe Nasr’s time would have been good enough for pole position in 2015.

Drivers eliminated in Q1

17Kevin MagnussenRenault1’07.941
18Jolyon PalmerRenault1’07.965
19Rio HaryantoManor1’08.036
20Daniil KvyatToro Rosso1’08.409
21Marcus EricssonSauber1’08.418
22Felipe NasrSauber1’08.446


Mercedes set the pace in Q2, with Lewis Hamilton heading Nico Rosberg by 0.175 seconds, but a strategic error appears to have put them on the back foot in terms of strategy for the race.

Both Ferraris set their fastest qualifying time in Q2 on the supersoft tyre rather than the ultrasoft compound, thus starting the race on the more durable tyre.

Red Bull initially set their times on the ultrasoft compound but went out for a second run to follow the lead of the Ferrari team, both drivers were just able to better their initial times meaning they will also start the race on the supersoft tyre.

Mercedes saw this strategy unfolding and attempted to do the same, but came out too late as a small amount of rain made the track surface too slippery to improve their times. They will start the race on the ultrasoft tyre, which suffered with significant blistering during third practice.

Jenson Button put in a good lap time to progress to Q3, out qualifying his team mate for only the second time this season.

Pascal Wehrlein was able to keep his strong pace going and lines up in twelfth position, between the two Haas cars of Esteban Gutierrez and Romain Grosjean.

Drivers eliminated in Q2

11Esteban GutierrezHaas1’07.578
12Pascal WehrleinManor1’07.700
13Romain GrosjeanHaas1’07.850
14Fernando AlonsoMcLaren1’08.154
15Carlos SainzToro RossoNo time
16Sergio PerezForce IndiaNo time


The session started on intermediate tyres and drivers struggled for grip, with Kimi Raikkonen harmlessly sliding off the track on his first effort in the first sector. Vettel set the initial pace, with Hamilton close behind.
As the track started to dry the times tumbled with each driver to cross the line, with Hamilton, Rosberg, Ricciardo and Hulkenberg briefly taking turns at the top. The intermediate running finished with Hamilton ahead of Button and Ricciardo.

With a dry line forming in the dying minutes of the session the field then pitted for ultrasoft tyres. Hulkenberg crossed the line first, heading the field by 1.2 seconds, but was quickly beaten by Massa, Vettel, Raikkonen, Bottas and Hamilton, before Hulkenberg came round again to go fastest again.

The times kept improving and Hamilton took pole position half a second ahead of Rosberg, with Hulkenberg in third position. Hulkenberg will move up to the front row of the grid after Rosberg’s penalty, as long as he avoids one himself for his Q1 time.

Jenson Button was the last man to cross the line as the chequered flag dropped but was only able to produce the fifth fastest time, splitting the two Ferraris. This will become a net third position once both Rosberg and Vettel’s penalties are added.

Williams struggled in slippery conditions that do not suit their car, taking eighth and tenth positions. Bottas finished ahead of Massa despite a spin in sector two on the wet track.

Top ten in Q3

PositionDriverTeamLap time
1Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’07.922
2Nico RosbergMercedes1’08.465
3Nico HulkenbergForce India1’09.285
4Sebastian VettelFerrari1’09.781
5Jenson ButtonMcLaren1’09.900
6Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1’09.901
7Daniel RicciardoRed Bull1’09.980
8Valterri BottasWilliams1’10.440
9Max VerstappenRed Bull1’11.153
10Felipe MassaWilliams1’11.977

2016 Austrian Grand Prix

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Author information

Chris Turner
Being pelted by rain on his first visit to an F1 race at the 1998 British Grand Prix wasn't enough to dim Chris's passion...

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50 comments on “Hamilton takes pole in dramatic damp qualifying session”

  1. Now imagine we still had the “new” qualifying system. This would have been ruined.

  2. McLaren starting 3rd!! Holy moly i am loving this

    1. Yes. Unbelievable. But can they hold on? It is an out of place car on tomorrow’s starting grid. Would be good if they can gather a bunch of points from this race.

      1. The McLaren will be p6 by the end of corner 3.

    2. With Button P3, I want a wet start tomorrow :)

    3. A glimpse of the future?

  3. Fantastic timing by Hulkenberg, he was the only one to do 4 laps on the dry tyres, thus he was the best prepared in terms of putting heat into them before fully attacking. Very reminesent of Brazil 2010. Top job!

    1. Fantastisc by Hamilton!

  4. Can Mercedes or any other team starting on the Ultrasofts one-stop tomorrow? Because if they can stretch it out to a one-stopper then all the fuss about Ferrari and Red Bull smart move of starting on the Supersofts would be diminished.

    1. Not a chance. They go through those tyres like I go through Pepperoni Pizza.

      1. I think that it is going to depend quite heavily on whether or not the air and track temperatures are closer to what we saw during the Friday practise sessions. The conditions today were around 15ºC higher today than on Friday, and it is these hotter conditions that are causing the problems with blistering – in the colder conditions we saw on Friday, the teams were having fewer problems with the tyres.

        Of course, with the likelihood of showers during the race itself, it is quite likely that they might need to make multiple stops – in which case, it may be irrelevant whether or not they could make a single stop strategy work.

        1. I absolutely agree with you. Rain can diminish any advantage Red Bull and Ferrari may have by pulling fastest laps on SS in Q2. And, yes, track temperature will play key role in Mercedes’ tyre degradation on the US.

          1. I guess you don’t like rain on your pepperoni pizza either ;)

    2. merc were the hardest on the us, they even blistered, you hardly ever see that with todays tires

  5. Both Hamilton and Hulkenberg surely should get a podium out of this. Then I’m fully expecting a Ferrari or Rosberg to come through. Hopefully the kerbs spring some surprise SC to spice things up because despite there being a lot of straights it’s never easy to overtake here.

    1. @xtwl Unless Hulk get penalized for ignoring yellows in Q1, which could mean Button will start on front row! Anyway, penalty or not, Hulk need to shows results especially since Perez already got podium twice this season.

    2. Hopefully we don’t see a damaged suspension breaking on one of those straights.

  6. Red Bull tactics, to get Verstappen and Ricciardo out like that but both finishing their last laps before most others, so stupid. Badly executed. And not the first time they’ve been lagging tactically.

  7. What a quali… My first thought now is, imagine how lame the session would be with initial 2016 Q3 format…

    But then what action, Hulkenberg, Button all using the situation to their advantage.

    Ferrari, Red Bull flundering. Maybe Red Bull is just slow on this track.

    But last but not least, Hamilton handily beating Nico once more in changing conditions. Despite Nico being better all weekend, Lewis has a distinct advangage on wet and drying track. Well done.

    1. Or he just happened to be at the right place at the right time. To put it in perspective, do you think the Force India is half a second quicker per lap than a Ferrari in this circuit?

      1. Come on, Rosberg set his lap after Hamilton so he had the advantage of the drier track, and yet he was still half a second off

      2. Exactly… Those conditions were representative of those conditions. Top changable conditions drivers had a clear edge.

        Que Hamilton, Hulkenberg, Button.

        Normaly Rosberg was faster than Hamilton this weekend, also Ferrari was faster than SFI and McLaren was nowhere…

        But in those conditions drivers made quite a noticable difference. Especially Hulkster. Or Button? Hard to say who of them did a better job.

        Hamilton was just fairly better than Rosberg.

    2. @jureo Come on, in these conditions those times were not at all representative of the pace the drivers/cars really have. If the session were 5 minutes longer the first 5 places would look much different. The track was improving by the second, literally.

      1. And Rosberg finished his lap after Hamilton.
        By that logic he did a pathetic lap hence he was 0,5 slower and we both that is not true.

  8. Mr. Alonso: Button was faster than you, again…

    1. I don’t want to be harsh, but could you not provide some sort of input into the conversation that doesn’t just obsessively focus on throwing abuse at Alonso?

      Look, we get it that you hate Alonso – could you not instead come up with something positive to say about Wehrlein, for example, given his impressive performance in qualifying to get his car up to 12th on the grid? Or Hulkenberg judging the conditions excellently to effectively secure a front row start?

      1. well said, its so annoying, just like the hamilton/Rosberg hooligans. … they are ALL good drivers , that is why they are in f1, everyone has their pros and cons, noone of them is perfect or the Best. ….

      2. Wehrlein did a great job qualifying two spots ahead of Alonso!

        I kid. I am a bit sad not to see what the flying samurai could do today.

      3. Alonso: team makes highschool mistakes!

    2. @jorge-lardone Since this is only the 2nd time this season, and since it may be a while until you can say the same again, I say enjoy it while it lasts!

    3. Peppermint-Lemon (@)
      2nd July 2016, 19:12

      Damn right. Great to see.

    4. Mocho_Pikuain
      2nd July 2016, 21:48

      No comment on McLaren Mistake with Fernando’s tyres, and Jenons mistake that caused a yellow flag killing alonso’s last chance. To sum up: McLaren makes a mistake, Jenson makes a mistake, and Fernando is the one ending tha day in Q2.

  9. Great entertainment, I couldn’t help but thinking what a rush to the Merc mechanics it must be when a godly NIKI LAUDA shakes your hand and gives you a warm ‘well done’ pat on the shoulder.
    Nico seems to have become a lot more relaxed and pleasant too, genuinely smiling, even thanked Lewis’s mechanics for helping him get out for qualifying.

  10. Max was grilled yesterday for his comments on the yellow kerbs by his colleagues and by the SKY pundits.
    Especially Johnny Herbert used the sword like Michael Gove stabbed his digger in the back of his “dearest friend” Boris Johnson. Let us call it the Westminster Abbey way to proof your point.
    In the old days Johnny screwed Jos a couple of times in a very nasty way and that made Jos avoid Johnny like avoiding someone with a heavy cold, a red face and green snot running out of the nose.

    But apparently Johnny still has a grudge against Jos, Jos is no longer in the paddock domain, so he now likes to grill his son. His praising of Carlos Sainz at the cost of Max is getting pathetic and he still finds it hard to admit Max actually won a race at the tender age of 18 when Hamilton messed up with Rosberg or vice versa.

    What a joke of a pundit, probably a Brexiteer.
    Why a Brexiteer?
    To wrap up no grip with global reality anymore , an Islander desperately clinging to my people first principles, messing up facts and lies at the speed of light and thinking all the time about the good old days when her Majesty ruled the world.

    Today Hamilton started moaning about the kerbs like I expected, so it will be really interesting to see what happens next. Probably he was getting a turtle head again when he saw Kvyat crash, but only his team will know these facts.

    Now Charly has to show he has the guts to resist one of his angels comments on safety issues.
    Otherwise he’s showing how biased he really is, then again same like it ever was…
    So when the kerbs get eventually changed, I predict some lame excuses will follow to explain his change of steer. Like he has showed so many times before, but it will sure make me grin and smile.

    1. @auria

      Wow, I want some of what you’re smoking!

      1. Yeah me too, “Let us call it the Westminster ABBEY way to proof your point” !!!?
        Er Boris, in Church?!… more likely the Westminster Arms on Storey’s Gate..?

        1. Peppermint-Lemon (@)
          2nd July 2016, 19:12

          Westminster Crabbey?

    2. @auria

      You need to stop looking into this imaginary scenario, get some help.

      Incase you filtered this out, it was Max who started yesterday by saying the kerbs were dangerous without being asked.

      Hamilton was asked by the reported during the press conference and gave his opinion.

    3. Jerez pal – hate much?

      For goodness sake grow up!

      What exactly did you add to any discussion with that vitriolic spout?

      Either debate frankly – why not just enjoy a fine qualifying session devoid of track inspired destruction…

  11. Raikkonen only .180 off Vettel with Supersofts, anyone?

      1. Just an observation, my friend.

        1. It’s 0.120… not that it matters, just an observation.

  12. Nicely done by Hulkenberg! Took the risk first and was rewarded for his efforts. Should be an interesting race tomorrow with this grid.

  13. MG421982 (@)
    2nd July 2016, 17:10

    Jeeeez, Hamilton/Mercedes again?!?! This is outrageous! When we thought… again… that another team would give them a run for the money… it wasn’t the case. Anyway, I like this circuit. Races apart, the rest of the weekend here is probably the best of the season. It really feels like a demanding circuit.

    1. Had you thought it’s because even with issues he is a little bit handy and as such is a blisteringly fast driver?

  14. I absolutely loved the thrill of this qualy, massive supsens till the checkered flag, best Q3 of the year so far.

  15. Robert McKay
    2nd July 2016, 19:56

    Half a chance Hamilton will have another dodgy start and there’ll be a Force India or even a Mclaren leading the race, for a short while at least?

    Interesting grid, made even more interesting with the strategy permutations with splits between ultrasoft and supersoft tyres in the top 10.

    Give us a bit of heavy rain coming and going like the GP2 feature race and we could get a stonker.

  16. I thought there was more excitement in the qualifying session than all of the Baku weekend…..
    Thanks guys

  17. It’s nice to have all 4 engine manufacturers in the top 10 at a power track!

    Looking forward to next year already!

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