SPIELBERG, Austria // Britain’s Lewis Hamilton sped through the rain and sunshine with perfect timing in his Mercedes-GP on Saturday to secure pole position for Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix.
The defending three-time world champion judged his speed and his tyre selection to perfection in challenging and changing conditions, claiming the prime starting spot with a best lap in 1min 7.922sec.
It was his second successive pole in Austria, his fifth of 2016 and the 54th of his career.
His Mercedes teammate and championship leader Nico Rosberg was second fastest, but the German will start Sunday’s race with a five-place grid penalty after a gearbox change following his crash in practice on Saturday morning.
Another German, Nico Hulkenberg, was third fastest for Force India, but faced a visit to the stewards’ office for an earlier infringement.
Four-time champion Sebastian Vettel was fourth for Ferrari, but he also faces a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change.
Briton Jenson Button timed his intervention to perfection also to take fifth place for McLaren Honda ahead of Finn Kimi Raikkonen in the second Ferrari.
Australian Daniel Ricciardo was seventh for Red Bull Racing ahead of Valtteri Bottas of Williams, Dutch teenager Max Verstappen in the second Red Bull and Brazilian Felipe Massa in the second Williams.
After all the penalties are applied, Hamilton is expected to start ahead of Hulkenberg on the front row with Button third in a McLaren.
Hamilton is seeking to reduce Rosberg’s 24-point lead in the drivers’ championship after eight of this year’s 21 races. Rosberg is seeking to complete a hat-trick of successive wins in Austria.
Hamilton ‘wants to be cool’
Meanwhile, Hamilton has been accused of masking his real feelings about the dangers of F1 in a bid to appear “cool”, Verstappen has claimed.
Hamilton has adopted a rather liberal stance on safety, blasting the halo — the driver-head protection device set to be introduced in 2017 — as “the worst-looking modification in Formula One history”, as well as branding his fellow drivers “moaners”.
Speaking at the last race in Azerbaijan where a number of his peers expressed their concerns with the Baku track, Hamilton said: “These drivers moan so much, so much about so many things.”
The quick entry to the pit lane in Baku — a street circuit that was billed as the fastest on the calendar — attracted criticism from Rosberg and Hamilton’s former McLaren teammate Jenson Button, who is a director of the Grand Prix Drivers Association.
Verstappen, at 18 Formula One’s youngest ever driver, also aired his grievances in the drivers’ briefing ahead of the Azerbaijan race.
“In the media he’s saying like he doesn’t care, but when he talks to his team it is different,” said Verstappen, who won on his Red Bull debut in Spain earlier this year. “I had an incident in the drivers’ briefing in Baku saying the pit entry was quite tricky, and he’s like ‘oh, you shouldn’t bother about it’.
“But then Nico jumped in and said ‘wait Lewis, you just said you were getting scared when you were always entering the pit lane. So what is this approach?’
“Maybe he wants to be cool. We are looking to improve safety, and we don’t want to die on the track.”
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