Lewis Hamilton takes 45th pole at Austrian GP qualifying

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Lewis Hamilton will lead Nico Rosberg in second at the Austrian GP.

Defending world champion and series leader Lewis Hamilton secured the 45th pole position of his career Saturday when he outpaced Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg in a dramatic rain-affected qualifying for Sunday's Austrian Grand Prix.

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The 30-year-old Briton survived a last-gasp 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 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-ten shootout after he had appeared to be fastest for most of the session.

Hamilton took his pole with a best lap of 1min 8.455sec, outpacing Rosberg by 0.2 seconds. Four-time champion German Sebastian Vettel was third fastest for Ferrari.

For Mercedes, it was a 19th successive pole position 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 Hulkenberg, fifth for Force India, and Finn Valtteri Bottas in the second Williams.

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Vettel quickest again in Austrian GP practice 3

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Seb sets the pace in Austria.

Sebastian Vettel again came home faster than the Mercedes in a rain-affected final practice ahead of qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix.

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The four-time world champion put his Ferrari at the top of the timesheet on Friday afternoon and repeated the feat on Saturday morning, with a downpour over the Red Bull Ring effectively cutting the hour-long session in half.

The session had been red-flagged as Fernando Alonso’s stricken McLaren was cleared from the pit straight and by the time it was returned to the garage the rain put pay to any further dry runs.

Lewis Hamilton got to within 0.017 seconds of Vettel’s best effort, with the German the only driver to dip below the 70-second mark as he recorded a lap of one minute 09.994 seconds.

Kimi Raikkonen was third fastest for Ferrari, with the Force India of Sergio Perez fourth ahead of Hamilton’s team-mate Nico Rosberg.

Williams locked out the front row here last year, with 2014 pole sitter Felipe Massa sixth quickest ahead of the sister car of Valtteri Bottas.

Max Verstappen was eighth for Toro Rosso, with the Lotus pair of Pastor Maldonado and Roman Grosjean rounding out the top 10.

Nico Hulkenberg was 11th but he was the first man to try and run on intermediate tyres as the rain fell and quickly returned to the pits as he struggled to keep his Force India on the track.

The Sauber of Marcus Ericsson set the 12th fastest time with Carlos Sainz 13th for Toro Rosso, whose parent team Red Bull could only manage 14th place for Daniil Kvyat and 16th for Daniel Ricciardo.

The pair will also take grid penalties ahead of the race after engine component changes, as will Alonso who split the Red Bulls before his issues – with the Spaniard set for a 20-place drop.

That will see the McLaren start in the pit-lane and likely serve a stop-go penalty during the race, with the same outcome for team-mate Jenson Button who was slapped with a 25-place penalty for fitting new power unit parts.

The 2009 world champion was down in 18th as Honda continue to struggle for speed, with the Sauber of Felipe Nasr 17th and the Manor pair of Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi bringing up the rear of the field.

After Hulkenberg’s adventures into the gravel traps and run-off areas, the drivers remained in their garages until the final stages as they took to the track in case the rain does not clear ahead of qualifying.

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#360LIVE: Austrian Grand Prix Qualifying

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Keep up with all the intense qualifying.

Formula One returns to Europe and the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg for the Austrian Grand Prix this weekend. You can follow all the crucial qualifying  LIVE with Sport360.

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–  Vettel fastest in second Austrian GP practice despite gearbox issues

The race returned to the F1 calendar last year for the first time since 2003 and in addition to the grand prix, the circuit will also host a two-day test on the following Tuesday and Wednesday.

Nico Rosberg finished highest on the podium last year. The German will be hoping for a repeat this weekend with the fear of team-mate Lewis Hamilton running away with the championship.

Last five winners: 
2014: Nico Rosberg (Mercedes);
2003: Michael Schumacher (Ferrari);
2002: Michael Schumacher (Ferrari);
2001: David Coulthard (McLaren);
2000: Mika Hakkinen (McLaren).

You can follow the practices LIVE with Sport360.

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