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Lewis Hamilton will lead a Mercedes 1-2 on the grid for the Austrian Grand Prix despite both he and team-mate Nico Rosberg ending their sessions off the track after committing separate mistakes.
Arguably the most entertaining qualifying session of the year as dicey weather conditions played their part in keeping things tricky even in the dry final stages, Hamilton and Rosberg both spun on both of their final laps, but it wasn't enough to threaten their positions.
Hamilton's turn of pace came after playing second fiddle to his team-mate Rosberg and FP2/3 pace setter Sebastian Vettel ahead of qualifying around the Red Bull Ring, but it would take a rapid second lap on his first set of super-soft tyres to secure the pole position after both he and Rosberg bungled their final efforts.
Indeed, Hamilton was the first to crack when he touched the white line in the braking zone for turn one, prompting a wild, but damage-free spin across the wide run-off. More galling for Rosberg, however, was his off at the final corner coming after he looked capable of exerting a proper punishment for Hamilton's mistake having gone quickest in S2.
Despite the strange end to the session, Hamilton and Rosberg still locked out the front row, marking the first time since 1992-1993 that a single team has scored an unbroken run of pole positions over a 12 month period.
Indeed, many had expected a threat to come from Ferrari after Vettel's efforts in free practice, but his hopes wilted when it mattered, the German ending up over three tenths shy of the top spot. Still he fared better than team-mate Raikkonen, who had the evolving conditions of Q1 to blame for him being dumped out at the first time of asking in 18th. (see below).
As such, though not quite the competitive challenge it had wanted, Williams still gets a second row courtesy of last year's pole sitter Felipe Massa, while Le Mans winner Nico Hulkenberg continued his successful week as he turned in a surprise fifth place starting position for Force India – its best grid slot since last year's British Grand Prix and coming ahead of the B-spec VJM08's debut at the next race.
Valtteri Bottas starts in sixth place, while Max Verstappen looked feisty at the wheel of the Toro Rosso as he turned in an impressive seventh place, ahead of Red Bull stablemate Daniil Kvyat, though the Russian is still to take his engine penalty.
As such, Felipe Nasr is destined to start in his best grid position of the year after qualifying ninth in the Sauber (soon to be eighth), ahead of Romain Grosjean, who hit problems in Q3 and failed to set a time.
Following the rain that struck during FP3, Q1 got underway in damp conditions, but would evolve enough for slick tyres to be used across the field by its conclusion, with the best times unsurprisingly coming from the final runners.
Indeed, it was this quick turnaround that would ultimately catch out Raikkonen, the Finn setting a time good enough for 11th at one stage, only for him to tumble down the order as others went through faster behind him. Airing his frustration on the team radio – by candidly asking back 'how the f*** did that happen? -, Raikkonen would end up 18th on the timesheets, penalties ahead notwithstanding.
Joining him in the drop zone was Sergio Perez, who couldn't replicate his rapid FP3 pace in 16th, the penalty-laden Jenson Button in 17th and the two Manors and 19th and 20th, Roberto Merhi out-qualifying Will Stevens.
With slicks from the start of Q2, the second session would follow a more predictable formula, with Pastor Maldonado missing out on the top ten in 11th position, together with Sauber's Marcus Ericsson and Toro Rosso's Carlos Sainz, while Daniel Ricciardo and Fernando Alonso are 14th and 15th prior to their respective grid penalties.