Spielberg (Austria) - Defending Formula One world champion and series leader Lewis Hamilton secured the 45th pole position of his career yesterday, when he outpaced Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg in a dramatic, rain-affected qualifying for today's Austrian Grand Prix.
The 30-year-old Briton survived a spin at the first corner of his final fast run to stay on top, thanks to 29-year-old German Rosberg following suit by running off the track at the final corner in his final push for pole.
For Rosberg, faced with a long trudge back to the pits, it was an ignominious end to a frustrating top-10 shoot-out after he had appeared to be fastest for most of the session.
AUSTRIAN GRAND PRIX GRID
Hamilton (left) and Rosberg again lock down front row for Mercedes. PHOTO: REUTERS
Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes
Nico Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes
Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari
Felipe Massa (Bra) Williams
Nico Huelkenberg (Ger) Force India
Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Williams
Max Verstappen (Ned) Toro Rosso
Felipe Nasr (Bra) Sauber
Romain Grosjean (Fra) Lotus
Pastor Maldonado (Ven) Lotus
14 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari
19 Fernando Alonso (Esp) McLaren
20 Jenson Button (Gbr) McLaren
"It was quite a difficult qualifying with the track conditions," admitted Hamilton who is now third, alongside four-time champion Sebastian Vettel, in the all-time list of pole-winners.
Only Brazilian Ayrton Senna on 65 and German Michael Schumacher on 68 have taken more poles.
"I was grateful I got my third lap in on the first run in Q3. I was pushing that bit extra on the next run and just locked the rears," said Hamilton.
"I wasn't too concerned about losing pole at that time because I was trying to get the car going, but obviously afterwards, I was thinking: 'I probably lost it there.'
"Ferrari have really showed some great pace here so it is going to be a tough race.
"Every little bit of time will count tomorrow."
Hamilton took his pole with a best lap of 1min 8.455sec, outpacing Rosberg by 0.2 second.
Vettel was third-fastest for Ferrari.
For Mercedes, it was a 19th successive pole in a run of dominance that left their rivals, Vettel apart, in some disarray.
Hamilton was the first Briton to take pole in Austria since James Hunt in his title-winning season of 1976.
Brazilian Felipe Massa was fourth for Williams ahead of German Nico Huelkenberg, fifth for Force India, and Finn Valtteri Bottas in the second Williams.
Dutch teenager Max Verstappen continued his impressive rookie season by qualifying seventh for Toro Rosso, ahead of Russian Daniil Kvyat of senior sister team Red Bull, Brazilian Felipe Nasr of Sauber and Frenchman Romain Grosjean of Lotus.
On a cool, damp and drizzly day, conditions were treacherous.
The struggling McLaren Honda team were already swamped by problems, with Briton Jenson Button, the 2009 champion, requiring a complete new power unit with gear-box and two-time champion Spaniard Fernando Alonso adding a new gear-box to his earlier new engine.
This meant that both men are set for 25-place grid penalties for today's race which, in turn, means they will start from the back and have to take timed penalties.
Button ended up finishing 17th in Q1, one place behind Mexican Sergio Perez of Sauber and one ahead of another unexpected flop, Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari.
These three finished ahead of the regular back of the field - Manor Marussia drivers, Spaniard Roberto Merhi and Briton Will Stevens.
"I really don't know what happened," said Raikkonen who has denied reports that he has been offered a substantial pay cut to stay with the Italian team.
"Obviously, it's a bad day and it won't help us for tomorrow."
F1 Austrian Grand Prix
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