Hamilton leads McLaren one-two in qualifying

Lewis Hamilton kicked off his 2012 season with a perfect result by achieving his twentieth career pole position for the Australian Grand Prix, ahead of McLaren team-mate Jenson Button and the impressive Romain Grosjean in the Lotus.

Hamilton’s single flying lap of one minute, 24.922 seconds was enough to edge him ahead of his rivals, with a margin of seven tenths of a second.

Romain Grosjean took a spectacular third for Lotus on his Formula One return. Such a remarkable performance from the GP2 champion when compared to his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, who was knocked out in Q1.

Michael Schumacher achieved his best qualifying result for Mercedes in fourth.

As for the Red Bulls, home crowd favourite Mark Webber could only manage fifth out-qualifying defending world champion Sebastian Vettel.

This is quite a setback for the championship-winning team with only a row three start. For Vettel, to start in sixth is a disappointing result.

Further back, Ferrari’s fears of an awful start to the 2012 season came true as neither of its cars reached the top ten.

While Raikkonen’s Formula One comeback got off to a surprisingly bad start as he was eliminated in Q1. The Iceman will start in P18.

Hamilton looked assured of pole after his first Q3 run, and although his rivals closed in, none could match his lap time.

Instead they fought over second position, which changed hands in quick succession in the closing moments as Webber – who chose to do just a single Q3 run – Schumacher, Grosjean and finally Button taking turns to close in on Hamilton.

Vettel never looked like being a pole contender and his sixth place was his worst qualifying result since he took the same position at Monza back in 2010.

Mercedes had appeared like a pole challenger as it led the way in Q2, but Schumacher and team-mate Nico Rosberg had to be content with fourth and seventh respectively.

Neither Ferrari got beyond Q2. Fernando Alonso spun into the Turn 1 gravel, causing a brief red flag. Fifth at the time, the Spaniard could only furiously watch as others demoted him down to P12.

But that was still better than Felipe Massa could manage. The Brazilian was a second off his Scuderia team-mate in both Q1 and Q2, despite having more laps than the sidelined Alonso. Massa ended up P16.

Raikkonen’s disastrous first qualifying session back in the sport was the biggest story. The Finn made a mistake on his final Q1 run, backed off to go for another attempt, only to find that he ran out of time… Kimi will line up in P18 for Lotus.

At the tail end of the Q3 field, Pastor Maldonado gave Williams huge encouragement after its difficult 2011 season with eighth position, with Nico Hulkenberg claimed ninth for Force India in his first race back after a year as a reserve driver at the team.

Daniel Ricciardo made sure that both Formula One’s Australians will start from the top ten as he got his Toro Rosso into the pole shoot-out, although he did not complete a flying lap in Q3.

Jean-Eric Vergne only just missed joining his team-mate in Q3, lapping a tenth slower as he secured P11 for his maiden Grand Prix start.

Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi set a surprise fastest time in Q1, but could not repeat that performance and qualified only P13. Team-mate Sergio Perez was unable to set a time in Q2 and will take a five-place grid penalty for changing the gearbox.

Bruno Senna and Paul di Resta were outperformed by their Q3-bound team-mates and were only P14 and P15.

While at the back of the grid, Caterham was some way off Q2 pace but clearly ahead of Marussia. As for HRT, both cars failed to make the 107 per cent cut-off time, with Narain Karthikeyan also blocking Alonso during qualifying.

So a McLaren one-two in Melbourne. Not only is the MP4-27 beautiful, the Mercedes-powered car is fast. Can Lewis Hamilton or Jenson Button score that first win on Sunday? It looks likely judging by the speed advantage over Red Bull.

Qualifying positions from Albert Park:

1.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes      1m24.922s
2.  Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes      1m25.074s
3.  Romain Grosjean       Lotus-Renault         1m25.302s
4.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes              1m25.336s
5.  Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault      1m25.651s
6.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault      1m25.668s
7.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes              1m25.686s
8.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Renault      1m25.908s
9.  Nico Hulkenberg       Force India-Mercedes  1m26.451s
10.  Daniel Ricciardo      Toro Rosso-Ferrari    No time
11.  Jean-Eric Vergne      Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1m26.429s
12.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari               1m26.494s
13.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari        1m26.590s
14.  Bruno Senna           Williams-Renault      1m26.663s
15.  Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes  1m27.086s
16.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari               1m27.497s
17.  Kimi Raikkonen        Lotus-Renault         1m27.758s
18.  Heikki Kovalainen     Caterham-Renault      1m28.679s
19.  Vitaly Petrov         Caterham-Renault      1m29.018s
20.  Timo Glock            Marussia-Cosworth     1m30.923s
21.  Charles Pic           Marussia-Cosworth     1m31.670s
22.  Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari        No time*
23.  Pedro de la Rosa      HRT-Cosworth          1m33.495s
24.  Narain Karthikeyan    HRT-Cosworth          1m33.643s

107 per cent time: 1m32.214s

*Five-place grid penalty for changing gearbox

19 thoughts to “Hamilton leads McLaren one-two in qualifying”

  1. Lewis Hamilton labelled his start to the 2012 season as incredible after securing pole position for the Australian Grand Prix.

    The McLaren driver beat team-mate Jenson Button to the top spot, finishing 0.152 seconds ahead to secure his 20th career pole position and the first one since last year’s Korean Grand Prix.

    Hamilton will start five places ahead of world champion Sebastian Vettel, sixth today behind Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber.

    The British driver was elated with the result.

    “It is an incredible feeling from back here, and to get such a good start, this is my and Jenson’s my first 1-2 in qualifying,” said Hamilton. “It is fantastic to start the season this way. I am massively proud of team working hard as they always do, to see this result is great.”

    “It is a fantastic feeling. It’s great to be back here and it is an incredible start to the season. Tomorrow is the most important day and we have a lot to look forward to. A tremendous job by the team to get us to this point. They had a tough couple of years but never gave up.”

    Despite his pole and McLaren’s strong form, Hamilton is expecting a very tight battle for victory on Sunday.

    “I think it is going to be incredibly tough and intense through the race. Looking after tyres will be key, getting a good start, seeing what strategies are. The teams need to be on the ball and so do me and Jenson.”

    Button was also very happy with the result, despite losing out to his team-mate.

    “We have done a very good job this winter, and we proved that today,” said Button. “It is only the beginning and the lights have not gone out yet, but this is great first result for us.”

    The 2009 world champion warned, however, that Red Bull could not be ruled out despite its low-key qualifying.

    “Red Bull haven’t lost it,” Button added. “They are still going to be competitive, and we can never forget that. But we will enjoy the moment go out tomorrow and hopefully have a great race.”

    Source: Autosport.com

  2. After taking an impressive third place behind the McLarens and yet ahead of the Red Bulls, Romain Grosjean hopes Lotus can maintain this excellent form for the rest of the season. Autosport.com has the story.

    Romain Grosjean says he hopes qualifying a strong third for his first Australian Grand Prix with the Lotus team is a signal that the team will be able to fight at the front this season.

    The Frenchman, who took part in seven grands prix during his first foray in to F1 with the same team back in 2009, posted a Q3 time less than 0.4s slower than poleman Lewis Hamilton and comfortably led the Lotus team’s attack after Kimi Raikkonen was bumped out of Q1. The Finn will start from 18th place.

    “It is fantastic for everybody [in the team],” he said, “It is really nice to be back in F1 and I’m enjoying it.

    “Winter testing went pretty well and I am proud to be part of this experience with Lotus. I have a few people who believe in me and I am back almost at the top. I hope we can keep going all season long and in the end it will be a nice story.”

    Asked where the speed was coming from on Melbourne’s Albert Park track, Grosjean replied: “A little bit of everywhere. A bit of myself coming – I am discovering the track in drier conditions -and the car works very well.

    “If we can manage to bring some bits to every race and then hopefully we can get between the guys in the front.”

    Grosjean, the reigning GP2 Series champion, was dropped by Renault after a disappointing debut in the sport three years ago, but has since re-built his career and said in the post-qualifying press conference that his was a good example why drivers should never give up.

    “That is the lesson,” he said. “Today I am very happy to be here, proud to be here. They gave me the toughest time. I am proud to be part of Lotus team and the atmosphere and experience can be very good, we have been working well during winter to do our best to make best of everything we can.

    “It is not a dream, we did it, and tomorrow we can work to get the best in the race and the next races as well.”

  3. Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne both hailed a ‘positive’ qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix after sealing 10th and 11th respectively on the grid for Sunday’s race.

    Both drivers were in contention to progress into Q3, with just over one tenth of a second all that separated Ricciardo – who took the final slot – and Vergne.

    The Australian said the achievement was a real boost for both himself and the team ahead of what will be his maiden home grand prix on Sunday.

    “That was nice,” he said immediately after the session. “The ambition at the start of the weekend, as far as qualifying was concerned, was to get into Q3 and we have achieved that.

    “Before we got to Melbourne, we did not have a clear idea of how our pace would compare with the other teams. In fact, I thought Q3 might have been a little bit out of reach, so this was a really positive result for me and for the team.

    “Today, we have laid the groundwork for Sunday: we should have a strong race as we are in good shape.

    “Jean-Eric is not far behind me, which will keep me on my toes, so as a team we can be pleased with the work we have done.”

    Vergne admitted he was a little disappointed to miss out on Q3, but said there were still several positives to take from the session.

    “That was not bad I think, even if it is a bit disappointing to have missed out on Q3 by a very small margin,” he reflected.

    “I got a very good lap in Q1, a bit less so in Q2. But I still have a lot to learn at this stage and the main thing is that everything went well and I am enjoying all the new experiences.

    “There are many positives to be taken from the way qualifying went and I feel we have a car that should work well in tomorrow’s race. My target for tomorrow? To score some points.”

    Toro Rosso’s chief engineer Laurent Mekies said such a strong early showing was a good portent for the season ahead.

    “The outcome of qualifying is positive, especially when you consider the midfield is extremely close which meant we had an enjoyable fight with our rivals,” he said.

    “Ending up P10 and P11, in Daniel’s case at his first race with us and in Jean-Eric’s case on his first ever Formula 1 qualifying, is a very good sign.”

    Source: Autosport.com

  4. Both Pedro de la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan were unable to set a time within the 107 per cent pole position. As a result, HRT are requesting permission to take part in the race. Autosport.com has the details.

    The HRT team has requested for permission to take part in the Australian Grand Prix despite its drivers failing to qualify on Saturday.

    Neither Pedro de la Rosa nor Narain Karthikeyan managed a time within the 107 per cent of pole position on Saturday.

    They were both over a second off the 107 per cent time.

    The team was in a similar situation last year, when it wasn’t allowed to take part in the race.

    Karthikeyan admitted it was “hugely disappointing” to have failed to qualify.

    “We knew it would be tough coming into Australia but today’s result is hugely disappointing for any driver, there’s no doubt about that,” said the Indian. “We can try and come up with excuses but, at the end of the day, we lacked pre-season running time.

    “We were up against it from the word go and yesterday’s weather wasn’t good which resulted in us losing a lot of dry running, hurting us badly. We’ve had a lot of issues with the car, which is something normal during pre-season, but the problem is that this weekend was our own particular pre-season and we were fighting against the clock.

    “So there’s a fair amount of work to do and hopefully we can improve and move on from this.”

  5. Sauber believes that the midfield grid positions it starts Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix with do not accurately reflect the competitiveness of its C31 contender in Melbourne.

    Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez were first and fifth fastest in Q1, only to fade away to 13th and 17th in second phase of qualifying as both drivers ran in to different problems.

    “P13 and P17 definitely doesn’t reflect our true potential,” said the team’s head of track engineering Giampaolo Dall’Ara, “but things just went wrong in qualifying.

    “It was bad luck that both our drivers were on their first runs when Fernando Alonso spun. In the second outing Kamui got held up by Mark Webber, who made a mistake in corner one in front of Kamui when he was on his out lap and was then not able to heat up his tyres properly. Sergio suffered a gearbox failure which we need to analyse.”

    Perez admitted afterward that he felt it would be difficult to fight back from 17th position on the grid in a race in which his performance last year cast him as a potential star of the future.

    “We made some set-up changes to the car today and in Q1 I was busy adapting my driving style a bit,” said the Mexican. “In Q2 I knew exactly what to do but then I could not shift anymore because of a gearbox problem.

    “It is a true shame as there was a lot more to come from the car and from myself. Starting from 17th will make it very difficult to get a good result.”

    Kobayashi was equally disappointed: “In Q1 I was really happy with the car and the grip and, of course, it felt great to have set the fastest lap. But then on my second run in Q2 with another new set of soft tyres I just could not find grip.

    “I have no explanation for that, it felt totally different. I also had traffic in the last sector, but the main surprise was the lack of grip.”

    Source: Autosport.com

  6. Starting in P12 was the not ideal situation for Fernando Alonso, but the Scuderia believed that without that driving mistake, the double world champion would have reached Q3. Autosport.com has the story.

    Ferrari technical chief Pat Fry is sure Fernando Alonso would have reached Q3 in Australian Grand Prix qualifying but for his Q2 spin, but doubts he could have got higher than row four.

    Alonso will start the Formula 1 season-opener in Melbourne from 12th place after spinning into the gravel during Q2.

    “There’s no denying that was a difficult qualifying,” said Fry. “It’s true that with Fernando, we could have got into Q3 with relative ease, given the time he did on his only lap in Q2 with used softs, but I don’t think we could have got higher than the fourth row.”

    Alonso’s team-mate Felipe Massa fared even worse and was only 16th fastest, as predictions of a tough start for Ferrari came true.

    Team boss Stefano Domenicali urged fans to keep the faith in Ferrari.

    “Everyone had been waiting for this hour of qualifying to understand what the pecking order would be: we knew it would be tough for us and that’s how it went,” he said.

    “I understand that at the moment, our fans are disappointed, but I would urge them to be cautious before making any definitive judgement, as if everything was already over. We need to remain calm and concentrated. We have a lot of work to do and our engineers are well aware of that, as indeed they were before even leaving for Melbourne.

    “The season is going to be very long, just as tomorrow’s race will be long and hard. Given our grid positions, the realistic aim is for us to get both cars into the points. As usual, we will do our utmost.”

    Fry is sure Ferrari can fare better in the race.

    “Let’s hope that over a long distance things can be better and we will at least try and exploit the fact that Fernando has no less than four sets of new tyres, while Felipe has two,” he said.

    “Clearly the two drivers’ grid positions are what they are, but we will give it our best shot.

    “And it is equally clear that we must work like never before to make the F2012 quicker and to try and reduce the gap to the best as soon as possible.”

  7. Fernando Alonso says Ferrari must react quickly if it is to stand a chance in the championship following a very disappointing first qualifying of the year in Melbourne.

    The Spaniard qualified in 12th position after spinning off in Q2, although he admitted he did not have the pace to do much better had he not made that mistake.

    With the Ferrari proving to be off the pace of the leading outfits already, Alonso conceded the Maranello squad cannot afford a slow recovery like last year if it wants to stay in the championship fight.

    “If we improve the car quickly we can target important things like the championship, etc. If we don’t improve the car quickly then we won’t be able to do it,” Alonso told reporters after qualifying.

    “Last year I was 1.4 seconds off the first, and this year I’m a second off the first in Q2. So we are better than last year, so to speak.

    “What happens is that we need to improve. Last year we were 1.4 seconds behind and we won the ninth race at Silverstone. This year we can’t wait until the ninth race to win a grand prix. We have to do it much earlier.”

    Alonso admitted Ferrari has failed to reach the target of hitting the ground running with its new car, and says now the team must do its best to recover.

    “We are obviously not quick enough, we are not competitive to fight for the top places at the moment so it is something that maybe we knew, or expected, or had some ideas after winter testing and today we confirmed that we are not competitive.

    “So there is still a lot of work to do, we have to be more united than ever, we have to work. I’m sure we worked 24 hours a day before this race and now we need to work 25 – it is the only way to improve the car and to win races. This is now the target. The target was to start the championship with a competitive car, able to win races.

    “That was the message all winter and all the second part of last year, we didn’t arrive to that target to arrive to Australia with a winning car. So we need to arrive as soon as possible with a winning car in the next couple of a grand prix.”

    The two-time champion said he had made a mistake during Q2, and claimed he was at least happy to have more tyres available for Sunday.

    “I think I touched the grass, I didn’t realise obviously but looking at the TV the left tyres were on the grass so I spun putting the tyres there and qualifying finished unfortunately in the gravel.

    “I don’t know what could be the position without the incident, maybe it was possible to go in Q3, maybe not, because the times were very close. If you go in Q3, you have no new tyres for tomorrow so at the end of the day maybe it’s a good compromise to be P12 with new tyres.”

    Source: Autosport.com

  8. As for Felipe Massa, the Brazilian could only manage P16 and has said that the team’s form was worse than expected. Autosport.com has the details.

    Felipe Massa reckons Ferrari’s plight may be even worse than the team feared after he could only qualify 16th for Formula 1’s Australian Grand Prix season-opener in Melbourne.

    The Brazilian’s team-mate Fernando Alonso was a second faster, but only 12th on the grid having spun off in Q2.

    “I am very disappointed: this is not the start to the season I was expecting or hoping for,” said Massa.

    “It was difficult right from the start of FP3: the balance of the car was never what I wanted and I never managed to get a clean lap. I was always lacking grip, both on the mediums and the softs and I suffered with oversteer on entry and understeer on exit.

    “I don’t know why, but the car seemed to be worse than in winter testing, maybe down to the characteristics of this circuit.

    “Now we will try and do what we can in the race tomorrow. It will not be easy, because I will start from a long way back, but I will give it my all. I don’t think we’ll be able to do just a single stop, but will have to try and make up the ground lost today in qualifying.”

    Massa added that there could now be no doubt about the uphill struggle now in prospect.

    “Clearly we are behind, maybe more than we had expected and there are other teams that have improved a lot compared to last year,” he said.

    Ferrari’s technical boss Pat Fry admitted the team faced a tough task to get Massa more competitive for Sunday’s race.

    “Unfortunately, Felipe was struggling with the balance of his car for the whole day and we will have to do a lot of work to try and sort out the situation as much as possible for tomorrow’s race,” said Fry.

  9. Making his Formula One comeback in P18 was far from ideal for Kimi Raikkonen but the Finn admits he made the mistake during qualifying. Autosport.com has the story.

    Kimi Raikkonen says his Lotus car had the potential to be high up the grid despite being knocked out of qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix in the opening segment, due to a mistake of his own admission.

    The Lotus driver will start the race from 18th position after a driving error and a communication issue with his team meant he did not complete his final flying lap. Team-mate Romain Grosjean meanwhile, proved the E20’s speed by qualifying third, within 0.4s of the pace-setting McLarens.

    “Today didn’t go quite as planned,” said the Finn. “There’s no issue with the car; I made a mistake and there was a communication issue so the timing wasn’t right to get another lap.

    “It cost us a good qualifying position but that’s how it goes sometimes.

    “We should have easily been in Q2. It’s not the best start but we’ll try to put it right in the race. There’s plenty of speed in the car.

    “The steering was fine. It’s not perfect for exactly what I want but it doesn’t affect my driving. For sure we can do better than 18th tomorrow so we’ll have to see what happens.”

  10. Sergio Perez will lose five places on the grid for the Australian Grand Prix after a gearbox change following qualifying.

    The Sauber driver qualified in 17th position after he was unable to complete a timed lap in Q2 due to a problem with his car’s gearbox.

    Sauber has been forced to replace the faulty gearbox, meaning Perez will drop down to 22nd on the grid for tomorrow’s race.

    Source: Autosport.com

  11. After falling outside the 107 per cent pole position time set in qualifying, both HRT are not allowed to race. Autosport.com has the details.

    The HRT team will not be allowed to race in tomorrow’s Australian Grand Prix after failing to qualify on Saturday.

    Neither Pedro de la Rosa nor team-mate Narain Karthikeyan managed a lap within the 107 per cent of the quickest time in Q1.

    Although the Spanish squad requested permission to race, the stewards said the team will not be allowed to take part in the season opener.

    “The stewards having considered all relevant material decide not to allow both cars to take part in the race in accordance with Article 36.1 FIA Formula 1 Sporting Regulations,” the stewards said.

    It is the second year in a row HRT has missed the first race of the season.

    Karthikeyan said after qualifying that his car’s DRS not working was a huge disadvantage.

    “I didn’t have the DRS working and had issues with the power steering, so we could have easily been in,” he told AUTOSPORT.

    “The DRS alone is worth about nine tenths, and the power steering is virtually non-existent, it’s almost impossible to drive. I think the problem is that they hydraulics are getting so hot, the viscosity of the fluid is thinner.”

    The Indian is not expecting next week’s Malaysian Grand Prix to be any easier for the team, but he believes HRT will be fine by the third round in China.

    “It’s going to be damn hard in Malaysia,” he added. “It’s going to be a lot hotter and we have cooling problems already, so it’s going to be very hard. We don’t want to bullshit ourselves, it’s going to be very difficult.

    “With HRT I was under a false impression with the new car. I obviously knew there would be problems but I thought we could get in, and I am very wrong.

    “I don’t see it as a long-term problem but I won’t be surprised if Malaysia is the same situation. Back to backs in a situation like this is almost impossible; we have a few small remedies but to work on the hydraulics is a humungous job. It won’t happen overnight. By China we should be okay, relatively speaking.”

  12. Despite qualifying in an excellent fourth position Michael Schumacher will not be ‘dreaming’ of winning the Australian Grand Prix for Mercedes. Autosport.com has the story.

    Michael Schumacher insists that it is unrealistic for him to fight for victory in Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix despite Mercedes making a step forward over the winter.

    Both Mercedes drivers were in the thick of the action at the front of the field in qualifying on Saturday. Nico Rosberg and Schumacher were first and third in Q2, before having to settle for seventh and fourth respectively in Q3.

    However, despite starting from the second row, Schumacher said his focus overnight will not be on trying to score a 92nd career victory.

    “I’m not dreaming too much about winning this race,” the seven-time world champion told reporters in Melbourne. “Yes, we’re fourth, but we have strong guys in front of us.

    “We’ll hopefully have a chance to jump on the podium, that’s not completely unrealistic. To win from where we are…it’s too early to talk about that.”

    Schumacher added that he was not surprised to be closer to the front than last year, but he was caught out by the Q3 performance of McLaren, and the struggles of Red Bull, the teams sharing the first and third rows of the grid respectively.

    “I think it is no surprise where we are,” he said. “And I think it will be no surprise if we are going to look reasonably good tomorrow in the race. But don’t forget the other guys look good too.

    “I was surprised to see the difference McLaren pulled from Q2 to Q3, as everybody was close basically the whole weekend and then suddenly in Q3 there was a bigger gap.

    “It’s more or less what we would have expected from winter testing, with the exception that Red Bull, we all expected, to be in front of us.”

  13. Defending world champion Sebastian Vettel admits Red Bull Racing didn’t have the pace to go for pole position. Autosport.com has the details.

    Sebastian Vettel has admitted that he made a mistake on his final flying lap in qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix, but the reigning world champion also conceded that he was not a genuine contender for pole position.

    The German had to settle for sixth on the grid for the first race of the year, as Red Bull’s two cars occupied the third row behind the two McLarens, Romain Grosjean and Michael Schumacher.

    Vettel’s team-mate Mark Webber managed to outqualify the double world champion despite the Australian suffering KERS problems ahead of Q3, and Vettel held his hands up afterwards for his performance.

    “We would have loved to have been closer to the front, but in Q3 I wasn’t happy with my lap,” said Vettel. “I made a mistake at the beginning and lost some time, so that was down to me.”

    He also said he was not as shocked as some in the paddock to see Red Bull’s qualifying dominance from 2011 has not been carried over into the new season.

    “I think what we saw today was not a surprise,” he added. “The laptimes were close. I could have been one or two places higher, but that’s how it goes.

    “We are not starting at the front, but we are not starting at the back either, so it’s far from disastrous and regarding the car we know what we need to do.”

    Red Bull team principal Christian Horner added that Webber’s KERS failure was the first one the team has had with the RB8.

    “Mark lost his KERS – it’s unfortunate that it had to strike at the most critical time of qualifying,” said Horner. “But nonetheless, he did an excellent lap.

    “Sebastian never seemed to really find the pace in the car that seemed to be there this morning, so we have plenty to look at this evening.”

  14. Jenson Button says McLaren’s qualifying form has been a ‘log time coming’ after he and Lewis Hamilton locked out the front row for the first time as team-mates.

    Button was the only driver able to get within three tenths of Hamilton’s best in qualifying – meaning that the front row of a grand prix will not feature a Red Bull for the first time since Monza in 2010.

    “It means so much. For the last two years we’ve been fighting for this: to get a Red Bull off the front row and two McLarens [on it],” Button said.

    “Great job by Lewis, myself and the whole team. I think we should congratulate and enjoy this moment, which has been a long time coming.”

    Button said it had been hard to know what to expect heading into qualifying, and admitted the surprise of finishing clear of the field only added to the sense of occasion.

    “You always hope for that [the front row] but you don’t know what to expect,” he explained. “Compared to Red Bull, qualifying has never been our strong point.

    “We knew that the Lotus, the Mercedes and the Red Bull would be competitive but we didn’t think we would be on the front row with three tenths in hand, so it is a very special day for us as a team.

    “All the way through qualifying we were tweaking the car and just making small improvements here and there and it was really making a big difference.

    “We should celebrate today, but tomorrow is obviously different and being first and second just makes your life a little bit easier tomorrow by a few metres.

    “I still think the Red Bull will be competitive tomorrow along with the Mercedes and the Lotus so it’s not going to be an easy day for us.”

    Source: Autosport.com

  15. Taking his 20th career pole position at the Australian Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton was surprised by the McLaren’s gap to rivals. Autosport.com has the story.

    Lewis Hamilton says it was a surprise not only to qualify on pole position for the Australian Grand Prix, but to also have a distinct margin over pre-season favourites Red Bull.

    While the form book had been difficult to decipher heading into qualifying, Hamilton’s fastest time was a resounding seven tenths of a second clear of Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel.

    “I am as surprised as anyone – I had no idea that was going to happen,” said Hamilton. “I thought Red Bull would perhaps pull a bit more time out, and that the Mercedes would have been a little bit quicker.

    “We knew our car was good, but we just didn’t know how it compared to others, so I’m a bit surprised that we were so quick today – although I’m probably more surprised to see Red Bull so far back.

    “It was an intense session. My first lap felt special and I definitely knew it would be competitive – I was just hoping no-one went quicker. When you get that lap and it just feels like its flowing and you hit the sweet spot everywhere, it’s like heaven – and it’s why I love Formula 1.”

    Despite McLaren’s margin in qualifying, Hamilton said tyre management would be key to deciding Sunday’s season opener.

    “There is still a long way to go tomorrow,” he explained. “The difference between long runs and how people look after their tyres will be key, and we just have to hope we are one of the best.

    “Position in qualifying is very important though, and I’m massively proud of the team, and proud that I was able to do the job today.

    “We will have a good battle tomorrow, and it would be amazing to get our first [his and Jenson Button’s] 1-2.”

  16. Pastor Maldonado is confident that Williams’s improved qualifying pace will carry forward into race day in Australia, after taking eighth on the grid for the Melbourne season-opener.

    Last year Williams often fell back in grands prix even when it had qualified well, and it ended the season mired in ninth in the constructors’ standings with just five points to its name. But the team’s hopes of a 2012 resurgence were boosted when it ran well in testing and saw Maldonado reach Q3 in the year’s first qualifying session.

    The Venezualen sees no reason why the race cannot deliver more encouragement too.

    “When the gaps are very close like this, with high fuel it gets even more compact,” said Maldonado. “The car has looked consistent even on high fuel so it’s all about strategy and everything.

    “There’s everything to discover because we have some data from the winter tests but you never know what time people did long runs and how much fuel they were carrying so it’s always difficult to evaluate.

    “But the car is much stronger than last year and it’s consistent – the most important thing is to be consistent.”

    Maldonado added that his qualifying result came as no surprise.

    “I was expecting that,” he said. “I don’t know if the team was expecting it from free practice, but my engineers on my side of Williams and I have been pushing so hard on the set-up and everything, just to be more competitive.

    “We saw that the gaps are very close. Now everything is very important. With the gaps so close, the driver can make the difference,especially to get into Q3. I did my best today.”

    Team-mate Bruno Senna will start 14th, and admitted he did not get the best out of the car.

    “I strugged this morning and this afternoon with the soft tyres. I had very scruffy runs with the soft tyres,” said Senna.

    “The only non-scruffy run with soft tyres was in Q2, but that was below the limit because of all the scruffy runs I had before.

    “I know I didn’t take everything out of the car, and that’s very disappointing. At the end of the day, if you over-drive in qualifying, you can beat yourself up a little bit, but if you under-drive, that’s not ideal.”

    Source: Autosport.com

  17. Force India’s Paul di Resta blames out-lap traffic for lowly Melbourne qualifying position. Autosport.com has the details.

    Paul di Resta believes that traffic on his out-lap prevented him from fighting to make the top 10 on the grid for the Australian Grand Prix.

    The Force India driver had to settle for 15th on the grid after he was unable to join team-mate Nico Hulkenberg in getting through to Q3. However, the Scot explained that his out-lap was heavily disrupted by traffic, preventing him from getting his tyres up to temperature for the start of his run.

    “I’m obviously disappointed to qualify where we are,” said di Resta. “The last run for me, I had a terrible out-lap with traffic and I had to back off.

    “It was looking quite strong [after the first run] but we made a bit of a mistake letting me out there [in traffic]. I think I had to let about six cars through, I had to go off line as they were on timed laps and unfortunately you are not building the loads as we needed [in the tyre].

    “As a consequence I had no temperature in my tyres and if you’re not switching them on – it’s quite cool at this time of day and we weren’t getting many laps in.”

    Di Resta added that he took heart from the fact that Force India seemed to make some progress with its VJM05 between free practice and qualifying.

    “There is an aspect of the car that looks reasonably strong if we can get it together,” he said. “[Hulkenberg’s time] was encouraging, but we’ve got a bit of work to do because it was quite difficult to achieve that.

    “We understand what we are trying to do and achieve so that is the main thing. I think we can improve again because we have certainly improved from Barcelona testing.”

  18. Excellent coverage!

    I watched the sky hd coverage and watched the BBC highlights coverage. BBC won for me. But will need a little bit of time to gel fully together.

    The guy in the bbc coverage who had analysis on how many pits the team should carry out that was something new and the guy looked very nervous, very knowledgeable though.

    Very impressed with Grosjean, which means Kimi should do a few overtakes tomorrow.

    Should be an interesting race tomorrow! and what red bull not on the front row!!! and may even be struggling. Shuie number 4 what!!! he hasn’t quit yet.

  19. Thanks for the comment Yas. I’m quite lucky to have both Sky and BBC broadcast (in High Definition of course) and I must admit, both coverages are good.

    Sky’s new dedicated channel is simply information overload with live Twitter feed, multiple channels on the red button, plus pre and post-race analysis. Although I do feel there are too many presenters on the show. In addition, it feels like an extended version of the BBC F1 coverage but with advert breaks!

    As for the BBC, you can really tell the downsize team. Although the end product is still high class. I love the new lead commentator Ben Edwards. He is excellent. His style when describing the racing action is pure enthusiasm and I like it! Their new technical analyst Gary Anderson is also good. His feedback on the latest car development is fascinating.

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