Austrian GP 2016 Qualifying: Lewis Hamilton on pole with Jenson Button third
Nico Hulkenberg keep second after stewards' investigation; Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel demoted down the grid; Verstappen just ninth fastest
Last Updated: 04/07/16 1:04pm
Lewis Hamilton has claimed pole position at the culmination of a breathless qualifying hour for the Austrian GP that also concluded with Jenson Button promoted to third.
On a drying track after a steady downpour at the start of the top-ten shoot-out, Hamilton beat Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg by over half a second for his 54th pole position in F1.
The German, who leads the world championship by 24 points, will start the race from sixth due to a penalty applied for a gearbox change triggered by his heavy crash in Practice Three.
But it could have been far worse for the world championship leader with his car only just fixed in time for the start of qualifying after Hamilton's mechanics were called across the Mercedes garage to assist.
With Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel also suffering a demotion, Button's McLaren will be elevated to the second row of the grid, immediately behind Hamilton and the Force India of Nico Hulkenberg.
"I love those conditions, can we have them every race!" exclaimed a jubilant Button to Sky Sports F1. "I am going to enjoy this."
The Englishman's grid position could have been improved further still after Hulkenberg was placed under investigation for allegedly failing to slow behind yellow flags but the stewards ruled late on Saturday night that no offence had been committed.
But the safety of the Red Bull circuit itself was also thrown into question during the session after Daniil Kvyat crashed out and described the circuit's controversial kerbing as "very dangerous".
Featuring just nine corners, the Red Bull Ring appears at first glance to be innocuous. But despite the absence of any obvious snarls, it's a circuit which contains a vicious bite with the suspension of Kvyat's Toro Rosso the latest in an increasingly-long list to have buckled on the track's meaty 'sausage' kerbs.
"We are on the cusp of a major issue here," warned Sky F1's Martin Brundle.
Hamilton was unimpressed with criticism of the Baku circuit two weeks ago, but said after securing pole this weekend: "I can't speak for the other drivers but, looking at it, those yellow kerbs are quite dangerous.
"We've seen a couple of incidents already. I don't know how many more it's going to take before a car ends up in the wall and perhaps someone gets hurt."
On a bad day for the Toro Rosso outfit, Sainz also suffered an engine blowout during Q2 which will require a fresh unit to be fitted to the Spaniard's car overnight.
Delivering one of the laps of the session, if not the season, under-pressure Mercedes protege Pascal Wehrlein strong-armed his Manor car to a career-best 12th on the grid as the backmarkers made their first appearance of the year in Q2.
But Renault's struggles continued as neither Kevin Magnussen nor Jolyon Palmer made it through the first hurdle for the third successive event. It was the two Saubers, however, who made up the bottom rung as the Swiss outfit's miserable 2016 season slumped to a new low.
Austrian GP Qualifying
1. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1:07.922
2. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1:08.465*
3. Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, 1:09.285
4. Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, 1:09.781*
5. Jenson Button, McLaren, 1:09.900
6. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1:09.901
7. Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, 1:09.980
8. Valtteri Bottas, Williams, 1:10.440
9. Max Verstappen, Red Bull, 1:11.153
10. Felipe Massa, Williams, 1:11.977
11. Esteban Gutierrez, Haas, 1:07.578
12. Pascal Wehrlein, Manor, 1:07.700
13. Romain Grosjean, Haas, 1:07.850
14. Fernando Alonso, McLaren, 1:08.154
15. Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso, No time set
16. Sergio Perez, Force India, No time set
17. Kevin Magnussen, Renault, 1:07.941
18. Jolyon Palmer, Renault, 1:07.965**
19. Rio Haryanto, Manor, 1:08.026**
20. Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso, 1:08.409
21. Marcus Ericsson, Sauber, 1:08.419
22. Felipe Nasr, Sauber, 1:08.466**
*five-place grid penalty for gearbox change
**three-place grid penalty for failing to slow for yellow flags