Lewis Hamilton stormed to an unchallenged pole position at the Australian Grand Prix today, as Mercedes team-mate Rosberg predictably filled out the front row, albeit six-tenths down on Hamilton’s lap.
While Hamilton set an incredibly quick 1.26.4 on his first timed lap in Q3, Rosberg made a mistake at T15, sliding off the track and bailing into the pitlane as a result. This put the German on the back foot as he began his second timed lap, and could only go 1.26.9 – before Hamilton went faster again and put down a 1.26.3 lap as the checkered flag fell.
Felipe Massa was the best of the rest, slipping ahead of the Ferrari duo of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen. On his Qualifying performance, Vettel said “3rd was possible today and we didn’t do it. It’s possible again tomorrow.” While Massa has reason to smile with his grid slot, his 1.27.7 laptime put him 1.3 seconds shy of Hamilton’s lap – showing the huge gap between Mercedes and the rest of the grid already.
Valtteri Bottas made a mistake coming out of the final corner on his flying lap and had to wrestle his Williams into staying in a straight line. The slip cost him time and the Finn qualified sixth, although it emerged afterwards that he had been complaining of a pain in the small of his back since the middle of Q2. Williams’ Head of Vehicle Performance Rob Smedley says they don’t know yet what is causing the pain, but a very stiff looking Bottas clambering from his cockpit post-Quali is an ominous sign for his race performance tomorrow.
Carlos Sainz had a strong showing on his Formula One debut as he qualified eighth ahead of the Lotus duo, who were equally pleased to make it into Q3 after their dismal 2014 showing. While Sainz’s eighth is a strong performance for Toro Rosso, his younger team-mate Max Verstappen showed immense promise when he went fourth in Q1, before his car let him down on the apex of turn 4 and ruined his flying lap in Q2. The Dutchman could place no higher than twelfth today, but money would be on him shooting through the grid in tomorrow’s Grand Prix.
Sauber’s Felipe Nasr was the first man to miss Q3, although qualifying eleventh is still something to be pleased about for his team following their pathetic effort last season. On the other hand, Nasr’s team-mate Marcus Ericsson was knocked out in Q1 and will line up sixteenth on the grid, almost a second slower than the sister car in the first session.
Daniil Kvyat qualified thirteenth in his first race since his promotion from sister team Toro Rosso, and ironically was just behind replacement Max Verstappen. Kvyat will have the Force India duo of Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez behind him on the grid tomorrow.
Excluding Mercedes’ astonishing lead over the rest of the field, McLaren were probably the talking point of the session as Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen qualified on the back row of the grid for the race. Button’s best lap in Q1 was 1.5s behind that of what was needed to progress to the next group. The team broke the curfew last night as they struggled with the new Honda engine, and their long night could easily develop into a long season.
Manor weren’t ready to take part in Qualifying as they continued to reinstall the software that was wiped from their cars at the end of last season, and so cannot take part in the race tomorrow. Their efforts turn instead to the Malaysian Grand Prix.
Although six-tenths down on his team-mate, Rosberg wasn’t happy with his Quali lap and the realistic difference between the Mercedes duo is a lot smaller. Still, if Rosberg doesn’t jump Hamilton before turn 1 tomorrow it’s tough to see him out-racing the Briton in a straight fight.
Australian Grand Prix Qualifying Results:
- Lewis Hamilton
- Nico Rosberg
- Felipe Massa
- Sebastian Vettel
- Kimi Raikkonen
- Valtteri Bottas
- Daniel Ricciardo
- Carlos Sainz
- Romain Grosjean
- Pastor Maldonado
- Felipe Nasr
- Max Verstappen
- Daniil Kvyat
- Nico Hulkenberg
- Sergio Perez
- Marcus Ericsson
- Jenson Button
- Kevin Magnussen
- Will Stevens (NT)
- Roberto Merhi (NT)
NT = No Time
Image courtesy of Mercedes AMG F1 Team.