Felipe Massa on pole for Austrian Grand Prix
Massa edges out teammate Valtteri Bottas in final qualifying
Nico Rosberg third for previously all-conquering Mercedes
Lewis Hamilton back in ninth with Sebastian Vettel 13th
Mercedes domination of the Formula One season came to a shuddering halt in final qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix Saturday as Brazilian veteran Felipe Massa took pole position.
Massa held off Williams teammate Valtteri Bottas of Finland with championship leader Nico Rosberg only third for Mercedes.
Rosberg’s teammate Lewis Hamilton fared worse, having to settle for ninth fastest on an afternoon of upsets.
Hamilton, 22 points behind Rosberg in the title race after failing to finish in the previous round in Montreal, had his first effort in the last session of qualifying ruled out for running wide on the circuit then spun on the second.
It was the 33-year-old Massa who adapted best to the twisting circuit at Spielberg, which is being used to host the first Austrian Grand Prix since Michael Schumacher won in 2003.
His time of one minute 8.579 seconds gave him his 16th career F1 pole and deprived Rosberg of his third straight pole.
“I’m so happy with what’s happened today with us, our team. It’s such a great moment. It’s been a long time since I had my last pole position, which was in Brazil in 2008,” Massa said.
Mercedes, with Williams pressing them, had dominated the three practice sessions ahead of qualifying so Rosberg was surprised to trail when it mattered.
“I definitely didn’t expect Williams to be ahead of me today but they did a good job,” the German said.
“I will do my best. It was a strong performance (from Massa and Bottas) but I think I can be faster in the race. So we’ll see… I think I have good chances,” he added.
It was a disappointing afternoon for Red Bull after Daniel Ricciardo’s victory in Canada where both Rosberg and Hamilton suffered technical problems.
Ricciardo eventually finished fifth – just behind Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso – but four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel failed to even make the final session and had to settle for 13th fastest.
The hiccup in Montreal aside, where Rosberg still managed second place, Mercedes had enjoyed a near perfect season heading into Austria with six victories and seven pole positions.
Force India’s Sergio Perez took 11th spot in qualifying, but will be penalized five places on the grid for his part in a late and high speed crash with Massa in Montreal two weeks ago.
Massa had to receive medical treatment after the horrific incident but has rebounded back in some style.