Lewis Hamilton arrived at the Austrian Grand Prix with victory in his sights but damage limitation became the order of the day after his error-strewn qualifying session.
The 2008 Formula 1 world champion, 22 points behind Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg after seven races despite having four wins to the German’s two, failed to set a lap time in the final shootout for pole.
The Briton’s first flying lap of the Red Bull Ring was disallowed for exceeding the track limits, after he ran wide at turn eight where drivers had been warned not to, and then he spun on the second after braking.
Hamilton, who was fastest in Friday practice, will start in ninth place on the grid with Rosberg lining up third, behind the Mercedes-powered Williams cars of Brazilian Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas.
“Sometimes you get it all together, sometimes you don’t and [in Qualifying] I didn’t get the job done,” the Mercedes driver told reporters.
“I still need to look at the data to see exactly what happened. It’s a long race and I need to try and recover as much as I can from this loss.
“The shot for the win will be very hard so I guess it’s mainly a case of damage limitation. I will be doing all I can to put myself in a strong position and to get good points for the team.”
Hamilton has had two retirements this season, while Rosberg has finished either first or second in all races. The Briton ill afford to let his ultra-consistent rival get even further ahead.
However, Rosberg also had his problems in a session that ended his three-race pole streak and Mercedes’ run of starting every race this season from the top slot.
“I didn’t get the second quick lap in Q3 (the final phase) when Lewis spun in front of me at Turn Two and I had to slow down for the yellow flags,” he said, in a remark that echoed Hamilton’s complaint in Monaco when the same happened to him.
“It makes life harder that the Williams are starting in front of us and I must say well done to them – they have been quick all weekend and took their opportunity today. But I am still feeling confident for tomorrow.
“We have worked hard to find the best set-up for the race – my balance wasn’t perfect in Qualifying, with a bit too much understeer, but I hope it will settle down [in the race].” (Reuters)