F1 Qualifying: Hamilton on pole as Mercedes dominate 
Hamilton’s Melbourne streak continues... Credit: Getty Images

F1 Qualifying: Hamilton on pole as Mercedes dominate 

Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas stormed round Albert Park to secure a Mercedes front row lockout and send a warning to constructor rivals Ferrari

Jaquob Crooke

Lewis Hamilton chalked up his sixth consecutive pole in Melbourne to give Mercedes the perfect start to the 2019 season.

A sensational final lap from Hamilton seen the five-time world champion pip team-mate Valterri Bottas by just over a tenth of a second, settling any question marks on whether Mercedes are the team to beat this season.

Hamilton breaking more records

Hamilton has now equalled the record for most pole positions at Albert Park with eight in his 12-year career, and the Brit blew away title rival Sebastian Vettel, with the Ferrari driver finding himself an incredible 0.7 seconds adrift of Hamilton’s fastest lap time.

After their impressive performances during pre-season testing, it proved to be a tough showing for the Scuderia as Charles Leclerc had to settle for P5, with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen slotting into P4 and delivering an admirable competitive debut for the new Red Bull - Honda partnership.

For Verstappen’s minor celebrations there came commiserations for his team-mate Pierre Gasly, who’s first qualifying session in his RB15 ended in disappointment as he crashed out during Q1.

Gasly was victim to the track evolving which as a result seen lap times tumble, and the Frenchman’s one run on the soft tyres wasn’t enough for him to progress past the first hurdle.

Haas best of the rest

It proved to be a strong afternoon for Haas with drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen starting from both P6 and P7 for Sunday’s race.

The American manufacturer capitalised on their impressive pre-season showing, with Grosjean finishing within 0.4 seconds of Leclerc’s fastest time.

Dream start for Norris

Lando Norris was one of the stars of the show and enjoyed a magnificent debut F1 qualifying session in his MCL34 as he made it into Q3 and set the eighth fastest time.

His McLaren team-mate Carlos Sainz, however, will find himself at the other end of the grid after the Spaniard failed to progress past the first stage of qualifying and will start down in 18th for Sunday’s race.

Kimi Raikkonen made a steady start to his Alfa Romeo career as he secured the Italian manufacturers P9 upon their return to F1 as a constructor - although the Finn was adamant that their was still time to be made up by the team.

The newly rebranded Racing Point also made the cut into Q3 as Sergio Perez continued where he left off from last season and made the top ten.

Renault’s reality check

After all the pre-season hype, blended in with the arrival of Daniel Ricciardo, it proved to be a disappointing afternoon for Renault with both drivers failing to make it into Q3.

The qualifying result meant that the Enstone outfit languished behind six other teams - Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull, Haas, Alfa Romeo and Racing Point - although Ricciardo was optimistic that both himself and Nico Hulkenberg will have a better chance of securing points come race day.

Toro Rosso’s Alexander Albon qualified 13th ahead of his team-mate Daniil Kvyat, who could only manage P15 on his F1 return.

The duo sandwiched another debutant in the shape of Antonio Giovinazzi, who failed to improve on the time that he had set during Q1.

Lance Stroll failed to make it through to Q2 on his first competitive drive for Racing Point, with the Canadian settling for P16.

Russell shines as Williams struggle

George Russell, who like Norris was a British rookie in his first F1 qualifying session in Melbourne, also felt like he extracted the maximum from his Saturday.

But while Russell did out-qualify experienced team-mate Robert Kubica, he only finished 19th and 1.2s off the closest rival in a poor Williams car.