Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton took his 39th Pole Position of his career as McLaren make up the back row of the grid after an eventful Qualifying session in Melbourne.
Hamilton went fastest with a blistering time of 1:26:327, which was nearly six tenths up on second placed Nico Rosberg in the sister Mercedes, and a whopping 1.3 seconds up on third placed Felipe Massa. The Williams driver was best of the rest as Mercedes showcased their dominance over the rest of the grid.
Q1 saw Manor fail to make the grid in time, the newly reformed team struggled to reach the deadline and will come back for the next race in Malaysia. McLaren looked like an unlikely contender for Q2 at one point but other drivers came along and posted much faster times, with both Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen nearly four seconds off the pace.
Marcus Ericsson, free to race after Giedo Van Der Garde dropped his legal action against Sauber, could only manage 16th to join the McLaren’s in going out in the first session of the season.
For Q2 many drivers looked likely of making the top ten shootout, however the shock of the second session was perhaps that Daniil Kvyat could only manage 13th on the grid. The newly appointed Red Bull driver failed to make the top ten, and lost out to both Toro Rosso’s, with Max Verstappen in 12th after a shaky moment from the Dutchman, and Carlos Sainz making it into the top ten on his debut.
Both Force India’s struggled and sit 14th and 15th on the grid, with Hulkenberg placing higher than his team mate Sergio Perez. The top drive of Q2 was Felipe Nasr, who narrowly missed out on the top ten, being muscled out by Romain Grosjean in the Lotus.
Lewis Hamilton showed a real signal of intent as he posted a 1:26:8, which was over a second faster than the previous quickest time. So with Mercedes looking likely for the front row lock-out, it was intriguing to see how the battle for third place unfolded in the top ten shootout.
As always the final session of the afternoon was frantic, with times being posted here there and everywhere. Despite making the top ten, Lotus couldn’t make an impression, and ended Qualifying 9th and 10th on the grid. Driver of the day Carlos Sainz managed 8th, which is ironically where Daniil Kvyat Qualified in his Toro Rosso debut 12 months ago.
Daniel Ricciardo secured seventh in his home race, with the Williams and Ferrari cars battling it out for the best of the rest tag. Valterri Bottas looked on for third, but after getting on the throttle too early on the final corner, the Finn lost control slightly and only managed sixth. Ferrari’s resurgence continued as Kimi Raikkonen put in a performance reminiscent of the past as he went fifth. New boy Sebastian Vettel went fourth on his Scuderia debut, a strong performance from the former World Champion.
Felipe Massa put in a great time to go third behind the two Mercedes’. Nico Rosberg had to abort his first lap as he went wide in the final corner. However he recovered and posted a time only good enough for second on the grid. So Hamilton had Pole in the bag already, but managed to shave a tenth off his time as he finished his final lap in style.
With Mercedes showing such dominance, it’s likely they’re going to run rings round the rest of the field, and with McLaren being so slow, it’s going to be a miracle should both cars finish the race.
|7||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull|
|8||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso|
|12||Max Verstappen||Toro Rosso|
|13||Daniil Kvyat||Red Bull|
|14||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India|
|15||Sergio Perez||Force India|