Hamilton achieves seventh Australian Grand Prix pole while Bottas crashes

A big contrast between the Mercedes drivers as Lewis Hamilton claimed pole position for the 2018 Formula 1 season-opening Australian Grand Prix, while Valtteri Bottas crashed out of qualifying.

Hamilton looked under pressure after the first Q3 runs, but produced an incredible final lap to take pole position by 0.664 seconds from Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen.

Sebastian Vettel had been just 0.034 seconds behind Hamilton after the first runs, but couldn’t find enough time on his final run to keep team-mate at bay or pressure the Mercedes driver – suggesting he had pushed too hard in Turn 13 on his final attempt.

Max Verstappen, who had been just over half-a-tenth off Hamilton after the first Q3 runs, ended up third position after losing the rear through the Turn 13 right-hander ahead of team-mate Daniel Ricciardo.

While ultrasofts were the tyres of choice for the rest of the field throughout qualifying, the Red Bull drivers will start on the supersofts, having used them to set their Q2 times.

Despite qualifying fifth fastest, Ricciardo is set to start eighth thanks to a three-place grid penalty for a red flag infringement during Friday practice.

Haas pairing Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean made good on the team’s promising testing and practice pace with sixth and seventh fastest, albeit two seconds off the pace.

Thanks to Ricciardo’s penalty, this means Haas is set to start with a third-row lockout. An awesome result for the American team.

Renault pairing Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz were eighth and ninth, with The Hulk shading his team-mate by just under half-a-tenth.

Bottas ended up tenth after crashing at Turn 2 on his first flying lap in Q3.

The Mercedes driver hit the inside kerb at Turn 1, which appeared to push him deep mid-corner and meant he touched skimmed the damp grass with his left-rear wheel.

He attempted to hold it through the second part of the right/left, but lost the rear and backed into the wall – coming to rest in the middle of the track.

Fernando Alonso was eliminated in Q2 after failing to improve on his second run, having a moment in Turn 3 and ending up three-tenths slower than his earlier attempt.

That was enough to put him one place ahead of McLaren-Renault team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne.

Sergio Perez admitted Force India “has work to do” over the radio after ending up P13, one position ahead of Williams driver Lance Stroll.

Stroll, like Alonso, overdid it into Turn 3 but then ran through the gravel, meaning he was unable to improve on his first-run pace.

Esteban Ocon completed a difficult day for Force India, aborting his first run in Q2 and then lapping just over half-a-second slower than Stroll to end up P11.

Toro Rosso driver Brendon Hartley was quickest of the five drivers eliminated in the first segment of qualifying, missing out on a place in Q2 by just 29 thousandths of a second to Ocon.

The Sauber drivers completed three runs, with Marcus Ericsson ending up P17 and less than a tenth ahead of rookie teammate Charles Leclerc.

Leclerc complained of an error in the Turn 4 left-hander that cost him a shot at advancing to Q2.

Williams debutant Sergey Sirotkin was outside the drop zone after the first Q1 runs in 15th place, but was shuffled down to P19 by the end of the session despite improving by just over three tenths on his second run.

That put him ahead only of the second Toro Rosso of Pierre Gasly, whose final attempt was ruined by locking up and running off track and through the gravel at the Turn 3 right-hander.

So a superb seventh pole position for Hamilton at Melbourne. The speed of that Mercedes W09 is impressive. It’s going to be challenge for everyone to catch the champ on race day. Hopefully the Ferraris can keep Lewis honest.

Qualifying positions, Melbourne:

1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m21.164s
2 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m21.828s
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m21.838s
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Renault 1m21.879s
5 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1m23.187s
6 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 1m23.339s
7 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1m23.532s
8 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault 1m22.152s
9 Carlos Sainz Renault 1m23.577s
10 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes –
11 Fernando Alonso McLaren-Renault 1m23.692s
12 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren-Renault 1m23.853s
13 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1m24.005s
14 Lance Stroll Williams-Mercedes 1m24.230s
15 Esteban Ocon Force India-Mercedes 1m24.786s
16 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso-Honda 1m24.532s
17 Marcus Ericsson Sauber-Ferrari 1m24.556s
18 Charles Leclerc Sauber-Ferrari 1m24.636s
19 Sergey Sirotkin Williams-Mercedes 1m24.922s
20 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso-Honda 1m25.295s

7 thoughts to “Hamilton achieves seventh Australian Grand Prix pole while Bottas crashes”

  1. Qualifying review as posted by Formula1.com:

    Lewis Hamilton blew his opposition away with a superb lap in qualifying to take his fifth successive pole position in Australia on Saturday, with Ferrari and Red Bull left trailing in the Mercedes driver’s wake.

    However, it was mixed fortunes for the silver cars, with Vatteri Bottas crashing heavily in Q3 without setting a time to red flag the session temporarily.

    Kimi Raikkonen outpaced his Ferrari team mate Sebastian Vettel to join Hamilton on the front row, ahead of the Red Bulls, with Haas and Renaults lining up two by two to complete the top 10.

    Raikkonen and Vettel were the pace-setters in Q1, with all the teams choosing to run the ultrasoft tyres – the softest Pirelli compound available in Melbourne – from the start.

    Raikkonen has had the edge over his team mate Vettel all weekend and that continued early in qualifying, with the Finn improving on his second timed lap to move further clear.

    Hamilton was a slow burner, his first two efforts not good enough to trouble Raikkonen – but his third flyer, on a six-lap run, was right on the money.

    The Mercedes driver was the only man to get into the 1m 22s bracket, ending the session, a quarter of second quicker than Raikkonen with Vettel the same margin back in third.

    Williams’ Lance Stroll leapt out of the drop zone in the closing seconds, garnering praise from his engineers. Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley missed by just half a tenth as a result.

    Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson and Charles Leclerc, Williams’ Sergey Sirotkin and Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly were the other drivers to be eliminated.

    The Red Bulls mixed it up in Q2, with Verstappen and Ricciardo the only two drivers opting to run the supersofts in the session, giving them an alternative strategy as they will start the race on that tyre.

    The duo eased into the final part of qualifying, but they didn’t challenge the top of the times. That honour was left to Hamilton, who was majestic on his first lap in the session.

    The Briton looked set to stay on top of the pile, only for Vettel to respond with a mighty lap of his own to become the first man into the 1m 21s.

    Bottas ended up third quickest, a fraction behind his team mate Hamilton, with Verstappen fourth and Raikkonen fifth.

    Further back, Haas continued their brilliant form with both Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean sailing through to the pole position shootout along with Renault’s Carlos Sainz and Nico Hulkenberg.

    McLaren weren’t so lucky, with Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne 11th and 12th respectively. Sergio Perez admitted Force India had a lot of work to do as he exited qualifying with team mate Esteban Ocon, as they ended up 13th and 15th respectively. Stroll also failed to progress.

    There was drama at start of Q3 when Bottas lost the car through Turn 2, putting a couple of wheels on the grass, and crashing heavily into the wall on the exit of the corner, bringing out the red flag.

    He climbed out of the car unscathed, but it took some time to clear the vast amount of debris that had been scattered across the track.

    When the session resumed, Hamilton led the way after the first runs, clocking an identical time to his best in the second part of qualifying and just 0.034s ahead of Vettel.

    Verstappen was just 0.027s adrift in third, with Raikkonen a tenth further back in fourth and Ricciardo fifth.

    Hamilton then blew the field away with a phenonmenal lap which was nearly ninth tenths quicker than his previous best. Ferrari’s Raikkonen and Vettel couldn’t respond, ending up more than six tenths adrift in second and third respectively.

    Verstappen beat Ricciardo to fourth, with the latter set to start three places further back following a penalty for a speeding offence in practice.

    Haas were best of the rest with Kevin Magnussen edging out Romain Grosjean by just over a tenth, while the Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz completed the top 10.

    Ricciardo’s penalty will drop him to eighth in the race starting order, handing Magnussen Haas’s best-ever grid slot in fifth.

  2. Fernando Alonso admitted he was relieved about his McLaren Formula 1 team’s competitiveness in qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix, despite missing out on a Q3 slot.

    Alonso was knocked out in Q2 after setting the 11th fastest time, but could move up to the top 10 if Valtteri Bottas is sent to the back of the grid following his heavy crash during the final qualifying segment.

    The McLaren driver finished 2.5 seconds off Lewis Hamilton’s pole position time, but insisted his first qualifying session with the Renault-powered MCL33 had been positive.

    The Spaniard says the fact that McLaren still has progress to make on the integration of the power unit means the Woking team has a lot of potential to move up the grid.

    “I’m very happy with how qualifying started. You are always curious to know where you stand and I think we have been pretty fast, especially in FP3 in wet conditions we were very close to the top all the time,” said Alonso.

    “Then in Q1 and Q2 we were always between seventh and 12th and as a starting point that’s great because we’ll have a lot of updates from now and the integration we need to do.

    “We are the only ones who have to do that – so we have ‘free’ upgrades that are going to make us a lot more competitive and so it was a relief to reach qualifying and see that it’s going to be a good year.”

    When asked if he expected a season-long fight with rival Renault, he said: “Now yes, but not all season.”

    Not having reached Q3 means Alonso can choose the tyre compound he wants to start tomorrow’s race with, but he said in this case that will not be a major benefit.

    “With the tyres we know that you always use the softs to start because they are better to start, you have better performance on the opening lap and there’ll be little degradation as all three tyres are very similar so there’s not a lot to play with there.

    “We’ll start 10th, I guess, because Bottas will be last, so I think it’s a good starting point.”

    Source: Motorsport.com

  3. After securing pole position was a massive margin over his rivals, Lewis Hamilton insists ‘party’ engine mode was not behind Q3 leap. Motorsport.com has the details.

    Lewis Hamilton says the 0.887s improvement that helped him grab pole position for the Australian Grand Prix was nothing to do with any special ‘party’ mode on his engine.

    The world champion had been under pressure from Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel after the first runs in Q3, but stepped it up massively on his second effort to set a new lap record of 1m21.164s.

    That left him more than six tenths clear of nearest rival Kim Raikkonen, prompting suggestions that the extended advantage could have been down to a special qualifying engine mode that he talked about recently.

    But Hamilton made clear that all his runs in Q2 and Q3 had been with his ‘party’ mode activated – and the final lap was more about getting his tyres working properly.

    “On that lap I was in the same mode as lap before – it was about getting the tyres in the right temperature and getting the sectors right,” explained Hamilton. “I had good sectors before but it was about putting them together.”

    He added: “You would think that with the results we had through the years it would be the norm [but] it was still just an intense. My heart is racing. But I am so happy with that lap.

    “It was such a nice lap. I am always driving for perfection and that is as close as it gets.”

    Expanding further on the engine mode situation, Hamilton said: “I can assure you we don’t have a party mode. I used the same mode from Q2 to the end of Q3. There was no extra mode, no extra button I engaged in.”

    This prompted an amusing jibe from Vettel, who questioned why Hamilton had not been as far ahead earlier in qualifying: “What were you doing before then?”

    Hamilton responded: “I was waiting to put a good lap in, wipe the smile off your face.”

    Hamilton said he was surprised that Ferrari had pushed him so hard in qualifying, with Vettel admitting that a mistake in Turn 13 on his final lap had cost him a slot on the front row.

    “Yesterday I wasn’t happy and didn’t really feel the car, but it kept coming together in qualifying,” said the German.

    “The last lap I had a moment in Turn 13, tried to brake really late but didn’t work. It’s a shame that Lewis had quite a big gap, but I guess his lap was good in the end.”

    Vettel also felt that with Mercedes not able to switch on its ‘party’ mode on Sunday, the battle for the win would be closer.

    “Hopefully they did turn it on today so have to turn it off tomorrow,” he said. “It is close. We saw in long runs the pace is close, but who knows. Really, happy for the team, it is a good result.”

  4. Mercedes Valtteri Bottas suffered a qualifying crash and could be forced to take a grid penalty following damage to the gearbox. Motorsport.com has the news story.

    Valtteri Bottas is set to drop a further five places down the grid at the Australian Grand Prix after Mercedes confirmed his qualifying crash has damaged his gearbox.

    The Finn made an error at Turn 1 during his first run in Q3, bouncing across the kerbs and losing control as he rejoined the track, swiping the barriers on the right hand side of the track.

    Although the damage to the car was extensive, investigations by his team after qualifying confirmed that the chassis did not need replacing, but his gearbox could not be used any more so a new one will have to be fitted.

    That will mean Bottas moving down from his 10th place on the provisional grid to start 15th.

    Speaking about his accident, Bottas explained the damp grass caused by a morning downpour had been a factor in the accident.

    “I was carrying a lot of speed and I went wider than ideal, and definitely it was a bit damp where I was,” he said. “I got sudden wheelspin and I couldn’t catch the rear any more or lift any more. It was my mistake.

    “I just pushed too hard in that corner, trying to gain some time. That cost me Q3 and for us as a team a lot of extra work for tomorrow.”

    With a 27G impact recorded, Bottas was taken to the medical centre for a mandatory check but was given the all clear, and he says there should be no lingering effects from the incidents.

    “It was quite a big hit and I’m glad everything’s fine,” he said. “There’s no pain at the moment. For sure in the moment it hurts a bit but I guess you earn that when you make a mistake like that.

    “The car is not fine but hopefully it will be okay. I think tomorrow if we can get everything back together, obviously, starting a bit far to be really fighting for the win, but there’s no point giving up on Saturday. Everything is still possible.

    “We’ve seen we have a good car in qualifying as Lewis [Hamilton] showed but we think we have a very good car for the race and I think anything’s possible.

    “Plenty of things can happen in the race. I had a race last season when I was one lap down and still ended up second, so you never know.”

  5. Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen admitted a mistake cost him front row slot. Motorsport.com has the details.

    Max Verstappen has suggested he would have qualified on the front row of the grid for the Formula 1 season-opening Australian Grand Prix but for a mistake at Turn 13.

    The Red Bull driver was fourth fastest in qualifying, 0.715s off Lewis Hamilton’s pole position pace.

    But running wide in the fast right-hander cost Verstappen more than enough time to have ended up ahead of second-placed Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari, which was 0.049s quicker.

    Verstappen had set personal bests in the first two sectors of Albert Park on his final Q3 lap, and had he repeated what he did in the final sector on his first run, he would have been second and 0.611s off pole – while with a clean lap he could have been significantly quicker.

    “I went wide in Turn 13, so I lost two tenths compared to my quickest lap,” said Verstappen.

    “Lewis seems to be quite far ahead, but if we would have put a clean lap together, it’s let’s say half-a-second, and then with the power mode they have, which is three or four tenths, then it’s not too bad.

    “I just lost a little bit on entry, so I missed the apex and then went wide onto the AstroTurf. You slide the rears and then the rear tyres are too hot, so that’s not ideal.”

    Verstappen, like teammate Daniel Ricciardo, was struggling a little for front-end grip during the session.

    Because of this, and the fact Albert Park is not a strong circuit for Red Bull, Verstappen said he was not too concerned about the pace relative to Mercedes.

    “In general the car was behaving really well,” said Verstappen. “Of course, it can always be a little bit better, so we just have to look for the future but every track is different.

    “Yeah, we could have had a bit more front grip.

    “This is not our best track of the calendar, our car is definitely working really well so I’m not too worried.”

  6. Kevin Magnussen says Fernando Alonso’s comments about the Haas F1 car being a “Ferrari replica” stem from frustration that McLaren is being outpaced by one of the smallest teams on the grid.

    Alonso likened the speedy Haas to a replica of last year’s Ferrari, referencing the team’s technical alliance with the Scuderia and implying that it was directly related to Haas’ upswing in form through testing and the early part of the first grand prix weekend of the year.

    Having today secured fifth on the grid, six spots clear of Alonso, Magnussen took his opportunity to hit back, claiming Alonso is annoyed to be behind the Haas drivers given McLaren’s comparative resources.

    “He’s annoyed that we’re in front,” said Magnussen. “I wonder why? I’ve been to McLaren. I’ve raced for that team and seen the infrastructure.

    “Compared to this, it must be annoying. I’m really proud of the team, and impressed. We’ve got a car that’s competitive here, it’s the fourth best car on the grid this weekend.

    “This team is the smallest on the grid, and if not the lowest then one of the lowest budgets and the least amount of people and resources. And yet we’ve got the fourth best car on this track in qualifying.

    “That’s impressive, I’m impressed by that.”

    Haas boss Gunther Steiner, meanwhile, shrugged off the two-time world champion’s jibe.

    “They’ve got their own opinion,” he told Motorsport.com.

    “They don’t have all the information, and making statement like this without the information is a little bit of a case of before you speak, you should know what you talk about.

    “They can have their opinion, everybody’s free to have one. And I’ve got my opinion.”

    Magnussen’s teammate Romain Grosjean acknowledged that the technology partnership meant the Haas would have some resemblance to the Ferrari but agreed Alonso’s comments were unfair.

    “We’re using the same gearbox, the same suspension, everyone knows that the suspension is defining a lot of the flow so of course there’s going to be similarities,” said Grosjean.

    “But we’re doing our own car and if we were Ferrari B we’d be up there with them.

    “It’s not true and it’s not nice for the people who work at Haas and who produced the Haas F1 VF-18.”

    Staring down the battle of a tight midfield battle with Renault and McLaren, Magnussen reckons that having worked with both outfits gives him perspective on just how hard it will be to keep them at bay for the entire season.

    “It’s going to be a massive challenge,” he added. “I say those comments with a smile on my face, but it’s going to be very very difficult.

    “I’ve been to those teams, I have huge respect for them and I know what they are capable of. It’s not going to be easy to out-perform them.

    “It’s going to be very difficult to have a better season than them and beat them in the championship.

    “All I can say is, at the moment, at this track, in this qualifying, we had a better package. That shows that it can be done.

    “But we’re now in the season, there’s a lot of things to do now. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re going to be very very strong from now on and catch up quickly.

    “Our job is capitalise as well as we can on this right now, and then hang onto it.”

    Source: Motorsport.com

  7. McLaren’s Fernando Alonso believes a positive result in the race and could score “big points” on Sunday. Motorsport.com has the news story.

    Fernando Alonso says he goes into the 2018 Formula 1 season-opening Australian Grand Prix hoping for a top five finish despite McLaren only being 11th and 12th in Melbourne qualifying.

    Alonso had been eighth in both Friday sessions ahead of McLaren’s first F1 race with Renault power, among the frontrunners in the damp part of final practice, seventh in Q1 and then in the same spot early in Q2.

    But he was shuffled back to 11th and missed the top 10 shootout as others put in superior final laps.

    He insisted he was “happy where I am” and very optimistic for the race.

    “I deserved to be P11 today, which is still a very good result in my opinion,” said Alonso. “The performance of the car has been quite good all weekend long.

    “Obviously you arrive from winter testing and you want to know where you are exactly in terms of pace compared to your opponents and we discovered that the car was well balanced and competitive from FP1 – especially this morning in damp conditions.

    “I think this is a very, very good baseline for the remainder of the season despite the result today. Big points are coming for us tomorrow I’m sure and this is a very good start of a new season.”

    Asked to quantify his prediction of “big points” and whether he might around sixth or seventh place, Alonso replied “hopefully better”.

    Alonso admitted he had not got everything possible out of the car in qualifying, and said it was always likely to be quicker on long runs anyway.

    “I think the race pace is a bit better than the qualifying pace, that was what we saw on Friday,” he said.

    “And then here today our position is a little bit lower than the performance we have in the car because we didn’t optimise the lap.

    “I think last year we saw seven retirements here, so I suspect that the cars we have in front of us may not all finish.

    “There are interesting battles there in front of us, so we need to stay calm, stay focused, finish the race and with the performance we have in the car that will be big points.”

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