BACK ON TOP: Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton ranked tops during the 2015 Austrian GP qualifying session. Image: AFP / Andrej Isakovic
SPIELBERG, Austria - Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton took pole for the 2015 Austrian GP with Mercedes team mate and title rival Nico Rosberg qualifying second on the grid.
The pole was Hamilton's seventh in eight races this season, and 45th of his career, and was secured when both the Mercedes drivers skidded off the track on their final attempt of the session on a drying track after earlier rain.
The 30-year-old Briton survived a last-gasp spin at the first corner of his final fast run to stay on top thanks to 29-year-old Rosberg following suit by running off track at the final corner in his final push for pole.
For Rosberg, faced with a long trudge back to the pits, it was an ignominious end to a frustrating top-ten shootout after he had appeared to be fastest for most of the session.
Hamilton, who is now third, alongside four-time champion Sebastian Vettel in the all-time list of pole-winners, said: "It was quite a difficult qualifying with the track conditions."
Only Brazilian Ayrton Senna on 65 and German Michael Schumacher on 68 have taken more poles.
Hamilton added: "I was grateful I got my third lap in on the first run in Q3. I was pushing that bit extra on the next run and just locked the rears. I wasn't too concerned about losing pole at that time because I was trying to get the car going, but obviously afterwards I was thinking: 'I probably lost it there.'
"Ferrari has really showed some great pace here so it is going to be a tough race. Every little bit of time will count tomorrow."
Sebastian Vettel will line up third for Ferrari with Felipe Massa, who started on pole at the Red Bull Ring in 2014, fourth for Williams.
Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen failed to get through the first phase of qualifying and was 18th before penalties are applied to others ahead of him.2015 Austrian GP Qualifying
1 Lewis Hamilton (Britain) Mercedes 1min08.455
2 Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes 1min08.655
3 Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Ferrari 1min08.810
4 Felipe Massa (Brazil) Williams-Mercedes 1min09.192
5 Nico Hulkenberg (Germany) Force India - Mercedes 1min09.278
6 Valtteri Bottas (Finland) Williams-Mercedes 1min09.319
7 Max Verstappen (Netherlands) Toro Rosso - Renault 1min09.612
8 Daniil Kvyat (Russia) RedBull - Renault 1min09.694
9 Felipe Nasr (Brazil) Sauber - Ferrari 1min09.713
10 Romain Grosjean (France) Lotus - Mercedes 1min09.920
11 Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) Lotus - Mercedes 1min10.374
12 Marcus Ericsson (Sweden) Sauber - Ferrari 1min10.426
13 Carlos Sainz Jr (Spain) Toro Rosso - Renault 1min10.465
14 Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) RedBull - Renault 1min10.482
15 Fernando Alonso (Spain) McLaren 1min10.736
16 Sergio Perez (Mexico) Force India - Mercedes 1min12.522
17 Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren 1min12.632
18 Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Ferrari 1min12.867
19 Roberto Merhi (Spain) Marussia - Ferrari 1min14.071
20 Will Stevens (Britain) Marussia - Ferrari 1min15.368
1-10: third and final qualifying session
11-15: second qualifying session
16-20: first qualifying session