Sunday, July 3, 2016

Hamilton's Pole Brings Reality to Bizarre Starting Grid for Austrian Grand Prix

Photo Credit: Mercedes AMG

The 2016 Formula 1 season is quickly approaching its halfway point and is only four races away from its month-long summer break. Following a picturesque European Grand Prix on the city streets of Baku, Formula 1 drivers and teams are reacquainted with a permanent, purpose-built track in Spielberg, Austria. The 2016 Austrian Grand Prix is occurring on the 4.326-kilometer Red Bull Ring well-known for providing similar punishments as street courses for mistakes.

Saturday's qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix was dominated by the familiar Silver Arrows race car. In all three sessions of time trials at the Red Bull Ring, Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes AMG vehicle was at the top including in Q3 where he posted a 1-minute, 7.922-second lap time to claim pole. Achieving the time on Pirelli's ultrasoft tires, the effort was accomplished as the track dried late in Q3 after rain started in late Q2. While Hamilton is a favourite to win, the past two Austrian Grand Prix races have not been won by the pole sitter.

Sunday's start of the Austrian Grand Prix will be another occasion two Mercedes-Benz powered machines will be on the front row. However, the second vehicle counting for the honour will not be Nico Rosberg. While Rosberg was second fastest in the Q3 session, his Mercedes AMG car has been shuffled deeper down the starting line due to a penalty. Instead, the Mercedes-Benz engined Force India race car of German driver Nico Hulkenberg has possession of second place starting spot. A Force India F1 Team car showed remarkable speed in Baku in the hands of Sergio Perez and ultimately finished third.

Photo Credit: Force India F1 Team

Qualifying results and starting line-up for the 2016 Austrian Grand Prix features many adjustments due to grid penalties. Mercedes AMG's Nico Rosberg and Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel have both been handed five-grid place penalties for gearbox changes made prior to qualifying. Rosberg actually start in fifth place since Vettel was in fourth position where he was demoted. Nico Rosberg has won both Austrian Grand Prix races held since the race was reinstated on the Formula 1 calendar. Renault's Jolyon Palmer, Rio Haryanto for Manor Racing and Sauber's Felipe Nasr have also been penalized by three places for insufficiently slowing down for yellow flags effectively placing them at the back of the field.

With big names like Rosberg and Vettel leaving qualifying with less than satisfying starting positions, surprises in the final results have seen some less heard names near the front for Sunday's race in Austria. A stunning qualifying result for the McLaren Honda team was achieved by Jenson Button. The 2009 Formula 1 World Drivers' Champion will start third alongside Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari. Just outside of the top-10, Estaban Gutierrez starts 11th for the Haas F1 Team two positions ahead of teammate Romain Grosjean. Sandwiched between the two Haas F1 Team cars is Pascal Wehrlien. The Manor Racing powered Mercedes-Benz race car

The Austrian Grand Prix's 2016 edition marks the third year Formula 1 cars have returned to the track formerly known as the A1 Ring and before than the Osterreichring. After being off the world racing series' schedule since 2003, the race was revived in 2014 after Red Bull co-founder Dietrich Mateschitz bought the race complex and reestablished to its current state. With Mateschitz also the owner of two Formula 1 race teams (Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso) there seems to be a reason to believe some added pressure is on the four cars to make a strong showing. Daniel Ricciardo in a Red Bull Tag Heuer led the contingent with what has resulted in a fifth place starting position following Rosberg's penalty. The second Red Bull Racing car of Max Verstappen is placed eighth for the Austrian Grand Prix.

As for the team of Scuderia Toro Rosso, qualifying proved to be a nightmare for drivers Carlos Sainz Jr and Daniil Kvyat. While Kvyat was able to post a lap time, the Russian ended the session in the track barriers when his vehicle's suspension was damaged. Becoming the third suspension failure on a Toro Rosso vehicle less than two weeks following a double-failure during the European Grand Prix, team's Chief Race Engineer Phil Charles cited the large curbing of the Red Bull Ring the source of breakage. Carlos Sainz Jr starts in 15th place after the Ferrari engine for his race car was changed after the final practice session.

Scheduled to start at 2PM local time (8AM eastern time) the 71-lap Austrian Grand Prix is likely to be a two pit stop race according to Pirelli.

2016 Formula 1
Austrian Grand Prix
Starting Grid

Pos #/ Car #/ Driver/ Team/ Engine

1 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG Mercedes-Benz
2 27 Nico Hulkenberg Force India Mercedes-Benz
3 22 Jenson Button McLaren Honda
4 7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari Ferrari
5 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull TAG Heuer
6 6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes AMG Mercedes-Benz
7 77 Valtteri Bottas Williams F1 Mercedes-Benz
8 33 Max Verstappen Red Bull TAG Heuer
9 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari Ferrari
10 19 Felipe Massa Williams F1 Mercedes-Benz
11 9 Esteban Gutierrez Haas F1 Team Ferrari
12 28 Pascal Wehrlein Manor Mercedes-Benz
13 8 Romain Grosjean Haas F1 Team Ferrari
14 14 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda
15 55 Carlos Sainz Jr Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari
16 11 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes-Benz
17 20 Kevin Magnussen Renault Renault
18 26 Daniil Kvyat Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari
19 9 Marcus Ericsson Sauber Ferrari
20 30 Jolyon Palmer Renault Renault
21 98 Rio Haryanto Manor Mercedes-Benz
22 12 Felipe Nasr Sauber Ferrari

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