Reigning World Champion Lewis Hamilton claimed an emphatic pole position in a rain-lashed Styrian Grand Prix qualifying session at the Red Bull Ring.
Relentless heavy rain through the morning caused the cancellation of final practice and placed qualifying under threat, but a drier window appeared around lunchtime.
However as Q1 approached the rain intensified and there was a 45-minute delay to proceedings before they finally got underway in exceptionally wet conditions.
Hamilton edged Max Verstappen in Q1 and Q2 but when the Q3 battle began lap times were four seconds slower thanks to another heavy rain burst.
Hamilton and Verstappen initially traded lap times before the Briton moved clear, laying down a marker of 1.19.702, putting him seven-tenths clear.
Verstappen tried to overhaul Hamilton but a wild few corners was followed by a half-spin exiting Turn 9 and that wrecked his effort, while the pursuing Hamilton went even faster.
Hamilton’s final effort of 1:19.273s left him 1.216s quicker than nearest opponent Verstappen as he sealed the 89th pole of his career.
Sainz Jr. stars for McLaren
Carlos Sainz Jr. netted a superb third place for McLaren as the team built on its fine result last weekend.
Sainz Jr. edged clear of title leader Valtteri Bottas, who briefly challenged for top spot before falling back as the session progressed.
Esteban Ocon was a stellar fifth for Renault as both of its cars made Q3, with Daniel Ricciardo ninth, as Lando Norris took sixth – but will be demoted three spots due to a penalty – Alexander Albon seventh and Pierre Gasly eighth.
Ferrari in trouble again
Ferrari reckoned it made a step forward on high-fuel runs on Friday but its pace was once again lacking during qualifying.
A week ago Sebastian Vettel failed to make it through to Q3 and this time it was Charles Leclerc’s turn to miss out as he finished only 11th, running wide through Turn 4 early on.
But even in Q3 Vettel was never a contender for pole position and wound up as slowest of the 10 competitors, 2.3s down on Hamilton, via a high-speed excursion through the Turn 7 gravel after he lost control of the SF1000.
Williams ends 23-race Q2 drought
Williams spent 2019 marooned at the back of the grid and only once came close to making it through to Q2, often spending the year a second adrift of the midfield.
Last weekend’s season-opener provided promise and the wet conditions gave Russell even greater hope, and he duly made it through to Q2 for the first time in his career.
Williams last featured in Q2 back at the 2018 Brazilian Grand Prix and Russell went on to almost snatch a place in Q3, finishing a tenth outside of the top 10 positions, classifying 12th.
Russell finished ahead of both Racing Point drivers as the team, which had Sergio Perez quickest in Friday’s dry first practice session, endured a dismal day.
Lance Stroll managed only 13th while Perez failed to even make it out of Q1, finishing in 17th position.
Where art thou Romeos?
Alfa Romeo endured another miserable day as it suffered a second double Q1 exit in as many weekends.
Kimi Raikkonen was 16th while Antonio Giovinazzi was only 19th and brought out the yellow flags, and then red flags, when he hit the wall at Turn 10.
Those yellow flags hurt rookie Nicholas Latifi, who had to abort a fast lap, leaving him 18th, and unable to follow Williams team-mate Russell into the next section of the session.
Romain Grosjean suffered a suspected water pump issue, having gone off on his out-lap, and did not set a time.
|2||M. Verstappen||Red Bull||1:20.489||1.216|
|7||A. Albon||Red Bull||1:21.011||1.738|
|13||L. Stroll||Racing Point||1:19.645|
|16||K. Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo||1:21.372|
|17||S. Perez||Racing Point||1:21.607|
|19||A. Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo||1:21.831|
|20||R. Grosjean||Haas||No Time|