Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton has claimed pole at the Austrian Grand Prix, following an exciting qualifying session run in mixed weather conditions. Hamilton set his best time in Q3 using the P Zero Red supersoft tyre, which is around 0.7 seconds per lap quicker than the soft tyre, also nominated for the race. Hamilton's best time was faster than last year's pole time (set by Felipe Massa for Williams) despite going off on his hot lap.
Qualifying got underway in cool temperatures on a damp track, with track temperature peaking at 21 degrees centigrade only. As a result, the early runners in Q1 used the Cinturato Green intermediate before the surface dried, allowing the switch to the Red supersoft tyre.
One pit stop appears to be the most likely strategy tomorrow, assuming weather conditions remain dry: which is far from certain. However, a two-stop strategy is theoretically quicker, but probably too risky in terms of traffic - which can be an issue at the rapid Red Bull Ring.
The challenging qualifying session was further complicated by the fact that there will be extensive grid penalties for some drivers tomorrow, with a few cars running out of position for other reasons as well.
The final free practice session this morning was hit by heavy rain well into the one-hour session. Before the rain hit, Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel set fastest time on the soft tyre, reinforcing his quickest time in FP2 yesterday. The majority of drivers stayed in the garage as rain fell heavily during FP3, but some drivers - including Mercedes' Nico Rosberg - completed a couple of laps on the Cinturato Blue full wet, in case these would be needed for qualifying and the race.
Paul Hembery: "From the moment we saw the skies this morning, we knew that it was going to be an unpredictable day here in Austria, and so it proved. Generally all the drivers did incredibly well to judge the limited grip available and make the most of our compounds under challenging circumstances, with the fastest times coming only at the end of every session. The unpredictability is set to continue tomorrow: we are looking at uncertain weather and a significant number of drivers out of position on the grid. Under normal circumstances we would expect one pit stop from the majority of drivers, although the faster cars may try two stops."
The strategy predictor:
The fastest strategy on paper for the 71-lap race is theoretically a two-stopper (start on supersoft, supersoft again on lap 31, soft on lap 60). However, because of the traffic the more likely scenario is a one stopper: start on supersoft, then change to soft on lap 25.
Check out our Saturday gallery, here.