Lewis Hamilton has snatched pole at the death for the Austrian Grand Prix in a session that saw mixed conditions in the final part of the session.
Hamilton and Rosberg again locked out the front row, though the actual start order won’t see the two Mercedes in that order on the grid.
A suspension failure, following a tripe over the kerbs at the exit of turn two landed Rosberg with a penalty even before qualifying started.
Without the time to analyse the gearbox between sessions Mercedes too no risk and instead bolted on a new rear end, gearbox and all.
Suspension failures had been a common theme to that point.
This was reinforced by Daniil Kvyat who ran wide at the penultimate turn before the right rear suspension failed on the Toro Rosso.
It pitched the Russian into the inside barrier before he skated off the circuit and out of the session – a result would could play a heavy factor in his Formula One career.
Sergio Perez had also limped back with a suspension failure, though whether the Force India driver’s failure was a result of kerbing or a simple failure is less obvious.
Toro Rosso’s session didn’t get any better as Carlos Sainz ended the opening phase of the session in a cloud of engine smoke shortly after the red flag for his team-mate’s crash was withdrawn.
Strategically the more durable tyre gives the team greater option at the start of tomorrow’s race.
Mercedes followed suit, though both its drivers have set times on the theoretically faster supersoft tyres – drivers who qualifying inside the top ten are obliged to start on the set of tyres on which they set their fastest lap in Q2.
Rain towards the end of the second session saw the circuit slow, preventing Ferrari’s rivals from replicating their strategy in the final minutes and nullify the Italian squad’s canny thinking.
Pascal Wherlein ended the second phase of the session in twelfth place, a position earned on pace though helped by the lack of two Toro Rosso’s.
The rain which ended the second phase carried on early in the final part of the qualifying hour, only to stop and the circuit begin to dry.
It left teams in a precarious position; stay out on intermediates and hope the circuit doesn’t improve too much or roll the dice and make an early switch to slick tyres.
Nico Hulkenberg and the two Williams drivers opted to gamble, stopping with four minutes left on the clock while Rosberg insisted to his team it was still far too wet for dry tyres.
That was a view that soon changed and the field followed Hulkenberg’s example, though having made the switch earlier the German had the advantage of an extra lap worth of temperature in his tyres.
As the clock ran down it was advantage Hulkenberg, holding provisional pole with one last flying lap up his sleeve, having crossed the line seconds before the chequered flag was shown.
He ended the session third, though will start alongside Hamilton on the front row following Rosberg’s penalty after a stonking lap from the reigning world champion.
Jenson Button ended the day fourth best ahead of the two Ferraris and Daniel Ricciardo.