Austrian GP 2016
JULY 2, 2016
Qualifying Report - Record breaking grab
By Dan Knutson in Spielberg
Michael Schumacher set the official lap record at the A1 Ring with a time of 1:08.337 in 2003. By the end of the second qualifying session for the 2016 edition of the race, 19 drivers had clocked faster laps around the 9-turn track.
Fastest of all was Lewis Hamilton who set a 1:06.228 in his Mercedes in the second qualifying session. It rained during the third and final session, so the drivers did not improve their lap times. But, fastest in Q3 and therefore on the pole for the Austrian Grand Prix was again Hamilton.
The ambient temperature at the start of qualifying was 81 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Centigrade) and the track temperature was 126 degrees Fahrenheit (52 degrees Centigrade).
The line-up for the weekend was: Mercedes - Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. Ferrari - Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen. Williams Mercedes - Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas. Red Bull TAG Heuer - Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen . Force India Mercedes - Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez. Renault - Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer. Toro Rosso Ferrari - Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz. Sauber Ferrari - Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr. McLaren Honda - Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button. Manor Mercedes - Pascal Wehrlein and Rio Haryanto. Haas Ferrari - Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez.
Rosberg had crashed heavily in FP3 when the rear suspension failed on his Mercedes. The crew rebuilt the car, but it needed a new gearbox and that would result in a five place grid penalty for Rosberg. Vettel also had a new gearbox and a five place penalty looming.
Wehrlein and Palmer were the first out on track for the 16 minute session. All the drivers were on Pirelli's ultra soft tires including Hamilton who zapped in a 1:07.014. Many of the top guns including Vettel, Raikkonen and Rosberg did not go out for laps early in the session.
Then, with 10 minutes remaining, Hamilton ripped off a 1:06.947. A minute later Rosberg left the pits.
The Ferrari drivers were now in action, and Vettel set a time of 1:07.030 and Raikkonen a 1:07.250. Rosberg was really on it and he posted a 1:06.690. Vettel improved to a 1:06.761 and Rosberg to a 1:06.516.
Red Bull did not send its drivers out until the final seven minutes.
With five minutes remaining, Sainz was 16th and Grosjean 17th. But a number of drivers did their quick laps right at the end. One of the guys really on it was Kvyat who crashed into the barriers at Turn 9 after an apparent rear suspension failure in Turn 8. So the session was red flagged with one minute and 47 seconds remaining.
Perez had also had a suspension failure earlier in the session, but he managed to make it safely back to the pits.
After a 16 minute delay, Q1 was restarted. A number of drivers headed out including Sainz who soon came to a halt at Turn 2 with smoke spewing from his Toro Rosso. That created a yellow flag zone in that sector, so the drivers had to slow down there.
The six drivers who were eliminated at the end of FP1 were: Magnussen, Palmer, Haryanto, Kvyat, Ericsson and Nasr.
The fastest 16 drivers who moved on to Q2 were: Rosberg, Vettel, Hamilton, Verstappen, Bottas, Raikkonen, Hulkenberg, Massa, Ricciardo, Wehrlein, Sainz, Button, Perez, Gutierrez, Grosjean and Alonso.
Perez and Sainz could not take part in Q2 after their woes in Q1, so in reality only 14 drivers were going to fight in the 15-minute Q2 for the top 10 spots and making the cut to Q1. Hulkenberg was in trouble, too, because he had failed to slow for the yellow flag caused by Sainz.
Rosberg and Hamilton were the first out. The team told them rain was expected in eight minutes.
Rosberg did a lap of 1:06.403 and Hamilton beat that with 1:06.228. Vettel then did a 1:06.602 for third place.
After the first round of runs, Ricciardo, Bottas, Raikkonen, Verstappen, Massa, Hulkenberg and Button rounded out the top 10.
The Red Bull and Ferrari drivers had set their times on the super soft Pirellis, so they would start the race on that compound. The Mercedes drivers had been on the ultra soft, and now in the final minutes some light rain made the track slippery. So on Mercedes drivers would have to start the race on the ultras.
The six drivers who were eliminated at the end of FP2 were: Gutierrez, Wehrlein, Grosjean, Alonso, Sainz and Perez.
The fastest 10 drivers who moved on to Q3 were: Hamilton, Rosberg, Vettel, Ricciardo, Verstappen, Bottas, Raikkonen, Massa, Hulkenberg and Button.
It was raining on some parts of the track and sunny on others as the 12-minute Q3 began, and Pirelli's intermediate wet weather tire was now in use.
Vettel set a 1:20.798 to top the times. Hamilton was second with a 1:21.294. But the track was drying and the times started to go down continuously. Ricciardo was soon ahead of the rest.
Hulkenberg grabbed first, and Ricciardo grabbed it back. Next, Hamilton took the position. Now a number of drivers switched to slicks.
Hulkenberg was one of them and he took the pole, but not for long. Massa, Raikkonen, Hamilton, Hulkenberg, Vettel and then, finally, Hamilton topped the times.
So Hamilton won the pole. Rosberg was second and Hulkenberg third. Vettel, Button, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Bottas, Verstappen and Massa rounded out the top 10.
Vettel and Rosberg, however, would both be starting five places back because of their gearbox penalties, so they would line up ninth and seventh respectively.