Britain’s Lewis Hamilton sped through the rain and sunshine with perfect timing in his Mercedes 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 team-mate 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.
Jenson Button timed his intervention to perfection also to take fifth place for McLaren Honda ahead of Kimi Raikkonen in the second Ferrari.
Daniel Ricciardo was seventh for Red Bull ahead of Valtteri Bottas of Williams, Max Verstappen in the second Red Bull and 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 spun during FP1 and rolled back onto the track as he attempted to keep his car out of the gravel, causing Grosjean to spin himself having been following the Mercedes.
Grosjean says it wasn’t the only incident he had with Hamilton during Friday practice which left him annoyed at the triple world champion’s driving.
“I wasn’t very happy with Lewis’ behaviour on track today,” Grosjean said. “He spun, he didn’t put the brakes, he reversed in the middle of the track, and I was coming, so to have avoid it I had to spin the car.
“Then in FP2 again he was doing some quali run and he kept going straight at Turn 2, coming back and staying in the middle of the track.
“I had a lot of Lewis around me today, and if it’s the case again on Sunday then it means I’m well positioned.”
And Grosjean hopes to speak to Hamilton about the FP1 incident during the drivers’ briefing on Friday evening.
“If I get the chance [to speak to him], then yeah, because we could have had quite a big crash this morning. It’s not something you want on your first run in FP1.”
A number of drivers were handed reprimands for incidents during Friday practice – including Rio Haryanto for rejoining the track in an unsafe manner in front of Daniel Ricciardo following a spin – but Hamilton was not investigated for either incident by the stewards.
Sainz was overlooked for a seat at Red Bull when Max Verstappen was promoted in place of Daniil Kvyat earlier this year, with Kvyat dropping back down to Toro Rosso. Sainz has impressed since then, and after Franz Tost said he expected to retain the 21-year-old, Horner confirmed an option has been activated to keep him at Toro Rosso next season.
“Well we took up [Sainz]’s option earlier this week so he’s committed to Red Bull for the next 12 months,” Horner said. “As with all the drivers he’s committed to Red Bull Racing and then we have the ability to place them where we want. Of course he’s currently at Toro Rosso which is where he’ll be next year.”
Asked if Red Bull needed to move quickly with Sainz to stop him being poached by another team, Horner replied: “No, we had until the end of the year to take up the option but we chose to do it early to put his mind at rest.”
And Horner expects Kvyat to remain alongside Sainz in an unchanged line-up as he feels there is still further potential in the Russian driver.
“I’d be surprised [if there were changes] to be honest with you. I think Dany Kvyat is continuing his development. You can see he is finding his feet now and there’s not an obvious candidate knocking on the door at the moment that would warrant that seat.”
With Daniel Ricciardo and Verstappen contracted at Red Bull until the end of 2018, Horner says it is a nice problem to be trying to keep all four drivers happy as long as they are performing.
“Of course it’s great for us to have a driver development program that is producing talent like Ricciardo, like Verstappen, like Carlos Sainz as well and obviously Dany Kvyat. We’re not short of talent in our stable.
“It’s a luxury issue really. I think we’re set in Red Bull Racing for the next two and a half years so it’s a luxury issue to have.”