Hamilton storms to season opening pole

Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes picked up where they left off from last season after locking out the front row of the grid for this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix.

The defending champions looked to be in control from the off. Mercedes topped both the practice sessions on Friday with Nico Rosberg heading Hamilton. The Brit continued the team’s good form by topping the times in FP3 prior to qualifying.

Hamilton laid down a marker early on into the top ten shootout, the Brit’s first effort good enough for provisional pole by some margin. On his first effort in Q3 disaster struck for Rosberg who spun at the second to last corner. The German was unable to mount a challenge to his team-mate. Last year’s Australian Grand Prix winner found himself over half a second slower than Hamilton whose 1:26.327 was good enough for his fourth pole position at the Albert Park circuit.

For a while it looked as if it was Ferrari that would be leading the chasing back, however, it was ex-Ferrari man Felipe Massa who lined up directly behind the Mercedes pair on the second row of the grid. Valtteri Bottas lost time on his final run in Q3 after having a big moment at the final corner in the closing stages, the Finn will line up in sixth place. 

On his Ferrari debut, Sebastian Vettel will start the race tomorrow ahead of Kimi Raikkonen. Vettel shaded Raikkonen by just .033 of a second. The pace that the prancing horse had shown throughout the winter came to fruition and were unlucky not tp lock out the second row. 

Home favorite Daniel Ricciardo got all he could out of the RB11. The Red Bull is down in power thanks to the Renault engine. After the difficulties that the Aussie had faced during Friday’s practice session, Ricciardo was happy with his efforts. His new team-mate Daniil Kvyat has had a difficult start to his Red Bull career and he will line up in thirteenth place. The Russian has struggled all weekend with a mixture of engine and handling issues.

Of the lower midfield, Toro Rosso look to have the most to be optimistic about following today’s qualifying session. Carlos Sainz managed to make his way into the top ten shootout and will line up in eighth place with an impressive 1:28.510, the younger of the rookie pairing Max Verstappen having to settle for twelfth position on his full Formula 1 debut. 

In what was a good day for the Lotus team, both Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado fought their way into the top ten, albeit in ninth and tenth place with Maldonado’s fastest effort still over three seconds slower than Hamilton’s pole position time. Sauber, all things taken into account, did not have the worst of days. Felipe Nasr was unlucky to not be in Q3 and will start tomorrow just outside the top ten in eleventh place. Team-mate Ericsson’s time was only good enough for sixteenth place.

Force India and McLaren both had days to forget. Nico Hulkeberg edged team-mate Sergio Perez by the slenderest of margins, just .001 of a second. Both were disappointed not to get out of Q2, but fancy their chances of finishing in the points tomorrow. The winter proved just how reliable the VJM 08 is, points may be a battle, but isn’t entirely unrealistic.

As for McLaren it was a day to forget. Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button will occupy the back row of the grid for tomorrow. Jenson Button’s best time on the soft compound was 2.8 seconds slower than Hamilton.

1Lewis HamiltonMercedes1:26.327
2Nico RosbergMercedes+.594
3Felipe MassaWilliams Mercedes+1.391
4Sebastian VettelFerrari+1.430
5Kimi RaikkonenFerrari+1.463
6Valtteri BottasWilliams Mercedes+1.760
7Daniel RicciardoRed Bull Renault+2.002
8Carlos SainzToro Rosso Renault+2.183
9Romain GrosjeanLotus Mercedes+2.233
10Pastor MaldonadoLotus Mercedes+3.153
11Felipe NasrSauber Ferrari1:28.800
12Max VerstappenToro Rosso Renault1:28.868
13Daniil KvyatRed Bull Renault1:29.070
14Nico HulkenbergForce India Mercedes1:29.208
15Sergio PerezForce India Mercedes1:29.209
16Marcus EricssonSauber Ferrari1:31.376
17Jenson ButtonMcLaren Honda1:31.422
18Kevin MagnussenMcLaen Honda1:32.037