Hamilton takes impressive pole at wet Spielberg

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In very wet conditions, with qualifying completely run on full wet tyres, Lewis Hamilton took pole position for the Styrian Grand Prix, more than a second ahead of Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz.

After the rain has already forced the cancellation of FP3, qualifying was also delayed indefinitely, until an opportune moment was found half an hour after the original starting time. So, the session was started 46 minutes behind schedule, and with predictions reporting another more intense period of rain, all drivers were out immediately.

Sebastian Vettel was in front of the queue, and therefore the first to go out on track. While drivers behind him were struggling with vision as well, Vettel only had to worry about keeping his car on track, something that appeared quite difficult, even on the full wets.

Vettel's first lap was difficult to beat by anyone at first, though Russell, on his first lap, beat that time immediately. Others were seemingly coutious on the first lap, including the Mercedes who ended up 6th and 7th fastest with their first laps.

Times continued to tumble, and both Ferraris worked fairly well in the difficult conditions. After 7 minutes of running, Leclerc topped the times, marginally ahead of Hamilton. Behind them were Raikkonen, Verstappen, Ocon, Gasly and Vettel.

The timing sheet continued to switch continually as most drivers continued out on track. Albon was seen in a spin, Grosjean and Latifi made trips through the gravel, but it was only when Giovinazzi slid off the track, and a but further on parked his car, that a red flag was necessary. With virtually no time left, it meant Perez was surprisingly only 16th, and out of Q2.

The second part of qualifying was more of the same, with time improvements coming fast and frequently. Verstappen and the Mercedes duo soon ended up near the front while both Ferraris had trouble keeping up.

Approximately 4 minutes from the end, rain increased again, leaving drivers struggling to make further improvements. Albon improved from 9th to 7th two minutes from the end, but he was, along with Gasly the only one who still could. Leclerc's gamble to switch to a new set of wets failed, and he ended up 11th, slower than Vettel, and just a whiff faster than George Russell for Williams.

Q3 saw Verstappen go fastest, but Hamilton got ahead on his second lap, followed by another improvement by Bottas the next lap. Behind the top three, a battle unfolded between the Renaults and McLarens with the youngsters of both teams getting the upper hand of their teammates.

4 minutes from the end, Hamilton shaves off another 0.35s while Albon moved up into third, ahead of team mate Verstappen. The latter improved yet again, only to see Hamilton return the favour moments later.

In the final minute, as Sainz moved up into third, Verstappen looked set for another improvement, but he spun off in the final sector, perhaps after having been distracted by Vettel who entered the pits.

Hamilton kept on going and improved yet again, on his final lap, to make it a considerable gap with the rest of the field.

Results

Pos.No.DriverCarQ1Q2Q3Laps
144Lewis HamiltonMercedes AMG1:18.1881:17.8251:19.27334
233Max VerstappenRed Bull Racing Honda1:18.2971:17.9381:20.48934
355Carlos SainzMcLaren Renault1:18.5901:18.8361:20.67133
477Valtteri BottasMercedes AMG1:18.7911:18.6571:20.70134
531Esteban OconRenault1:19.6871:18.7641:20.92233
64Lando NorrisMcLaren Renault1:18.5041:18.4481:20.92534
723Alexander AlbonRed Bull Racing Honda1:20.8821:19.0141:21.01131
810Pierre GaslyAlphaTauri Honda1:20.1921:18.7441:21.02833
93Daniel RicciardoRenault1:19.6621:19.2291:21.19232
105Sebastian VettelFerrari1:20.2431:19.5451:21.65133
1116Charles LeclercFerrari1:20.8711:19.628-24
1263George RussellWilliams Mercedes1:20.3821:19.636-22
1318Lance StrollRacing Point BWT Mercedes1:19.6971:19.645-23
1426Daniil KvyatAlphaTauri Honda1:19.8241:19.717-24
1520Kevin MagnussenHaas Ferrari1:21.1401:20.211-22
167Kimi RäikkönenAlfa Romeo Racing Ferrari1:21.372--12
1711Sergio PerezRacing Point BWT Mercedes1:21.607--12
186Nicholas LatifiWilliams Mercedes1:21.759--12
1999Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo Racing Ferrari1:21.831--12
208Romain GrosjeanHaas FerrariDNS--1

Note - Norris penalised three grid places for overtaking under yellow flags during FP1