There had been calls for Vettel to be hit with penalties for this race after he drove his auto into Hamilton's at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in protest to what he considered a risky braking manoeuvre. Although Hamilton accepted the apology and said he still has "the utmost respect" for Vettel, he chose not to play along when asked to shake hands with his rival in post-qualifying interviews.
"Congratulations to Valtteri, he did a fantastic job", Hamilton acknowledged.
Further down the field, there was encouragement for McLaren drivers Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne as fresh Honda power units helped them run in the top 10 across the sessions. This year, Vettel is first in the point standings. "The balance of the vehicle feels good and we'll fine tune the set-up tonight for qualifying". "I'm sure Lewis (Hamilton) still has a lot of time to come back and get points for the team".
McLaren failed to put its upgraded Honda power unit in Stoffel Vandoorne's auto to good use as the Belgian finished 13th in Q2, just behind teammate Fernando Alonso who had been forced to revert back to the 'Spec 2′ engine earlier in the day following a problem.
Hamilton had been fastest in the first round of qualifying.
Hamilton dominated the first two practice sessions but can start no higher than sixth after his team revealed that his vehicle needed an unscheduled gearbox change, incurring a mandatory five place grid drop.
After seeing the Mercedes man go fastest in both of Friday's sessions, Vettel responded with a time of one minute, 5.092 seconds in FP3. "It makes sense for him to push as hard as he can to win the race". He was given a 10-seconds stop-go penalty during the race, but that was rendered ineffective - in terms of the championship scrap with Hamilton - by the Englishman's head-rest problems. But he is not confident of a repeat performance.
"Hopefully, we can be more competitive tomorrow", said Vettel.
"We'll see, it's a long race", the German said. Here is a look at the odds for this race.
He felt he should have pushed his auto a bit harder.
In the fight for pole still made a decision to first fastest lap from Bottas - Finnish driver of "Mercedes" on 0,042 thousandths of a second ahead of Vettel, while Hamilton is located on the third intermediate position.
Williams' miserable weekend in Spielberg continued as both Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll were eliminated in Q1, finishing 17th and 18th as the new updates for the FW40 vehicle continued to cause headaches.
"Bottas on pole, he deserved it. Q1 and Q2 was good and then Q3 was just so-so".
Bottas said that trying to slow Vettel down would risk Mercedes losing the race.
Hamilton's floor was also damaged, which necessitated urgent repairs during the red flag stoppage - although his aerodynamics were affected for the remainder of the race - while Mercedes later found damage to the gearbox during factory analysis of the vehicle.
Following factory analysis of the auto after the Azerbaijan weekend, however, Mercedes found some damage to the gearbox and, earlier this week, it decided that it would be better to change it for this weekend rather than risk it failing. I lost points in the last race and I want to reverse that.
It will take something special for Hamilton to win the 57th race of his career.
Bottas finished ninth in this race past year and fifth in 2014.