Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton has clinched pole position for Sunday's Austrian Grand Prix. Nico Rosberg came in second but the German will start with a five-place grid penalty due to an unscheduled gearbox change.
Saturday's qualifying session was marked by rain delay and crashes.
"I was chipping away where I was losing time, and eventually I finally got into the position to go for pole and then the rain came," Hamilton said after securing his fifth pole of the season and the 54th of his career.
"It was a really fun session. It is incredible how fast it dries up here; it's like driving through fog. It was very, very slippery, but it was drying up corner by corner. At the end it was just about getting that last lap. I'm very happy," the British driver added.
Hamilton also voiced concerns about the new kerbs at the Spielberg circuit, saying changes needed to be made.
A series of suspension failures appeared to have been triggered by the kerbs, modified to prevent drivers gaining an advantage by going off the track. "I don't know how many more of those it's going to take before a car ends up in the wall and perhaps someone gets hurt."
A rain shower sent the cars into the pits late in the second session and most of the action came at the end of the third session, after the track dried and the cars switched to softer, faster tires.
Behind the leader
Hamilton's Mercedes teammate and current championship leader Nico Rosberg came in second but he will be dropped five places on the starting grid because of an unscheduled gearbox change after crashing in the final practice hours earlier. Rosberg was lucky to get on the track after a crash in the morning practice left his car badly damaged.
"It's unbelievable how the track got dry so quickly and we were able to get on softs in the end," Rosberg said. "The five-place penalty will be very costly tomorrow but I'll try to make the best of it." He starts from the fourth row.
Like Rosberg, Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel will also drop five places because of a gearbox change. The German will start on the fifth row of the grid.
Nico Hulkenberg of Force India will start third, followed by Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel and McLaren's Jenson Button.
With the penalties considered, Hamilton and Nico Hulkenberg of Force India will be in the front row; McLaren's Jenson Button and Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen on the second.
Daniil Kvyat crashed heavily, causing a 16-minute red flag, and then the second Toro Rosso driven by Carlos Sainz blew its engine in the first of the three qualifying sessions.
Rosberg has a 24-point lead in the drivers' championship on Hamilton, who is seeking to reduce the gap after eight of this year's 21 races. Rosberg, on the other hand, is aiming to complete a hat-trick of successive wins in Austria.
shs/jm (AP, AFP)