Hamilton scores pole in season opener

Defending world champion Lewis Hamilton kicked off the new Formula 1 season with style with pole position at the Australian Grand Prix, heading a front row lock-out for Mercedes.

This was the perfect result from the champions following the pre-season hype that Ferrari are the quickest. In actual racing performance, the Silver Arrows turned up to form factor to 11 and flew around the Albert Park circuit.

The time difference of seven tenths of a second between Mercedes to Ferrari is massive and really showcase how strong the W10 package is this season.

Hamilton achieved his sixth consecutive pole despite team-mate Valtteri Bottas holding an advantage of 0.457 seconds after the first runs in Q3.

And yet Hamilton stepped up to the challenge with his second set of softs to post a one minute, 20.486 seconds to secure P1. Bottas failed to improve on his second run, meaning he ended up 0.112 seconds behind.

After showing strongly in pre-season testing, the lead Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel was a massive 0.704 seconds off pole position having never shown Mercedes-threatening pace this weekend.

Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen split the Ferraris on his team’s debut weekend with Honda, lapping just over a tenth slower than Vettel.

That left Ferrari debutant Charles Leclerc fifth, 0.956 seconds off the pace.

Despite lapping only 0.144 seconds slower than team-mate Verstappen, Red Bull debutant Pierre Gasly was a high-profile victim of Q1 in P17.

He was one of only five drivers not to attempt a second run in the first segment in qualifying and was shuffled down amid the late flurry of improvements, describing the strategy as “a bit optimistic”.

As anticipated, Haas led the midfield with Romain Grosjean taking sixth place ahead of team-mate Kevin Magnussen.

One of the stars of qualifying was debutant Lando Norris, who qualified eighth and 1.818 seconds off the pace after a strong performance in both Q2 and Q3.

This was an outstanding achievement for Lando Norris in his first F1 appearance. To out-qualify your more experienced team-mate and record P8 in his first race for McLaren is simply remarkable.

Kimi Raikkonen was ninth, just 0.010 seconds behind Norris, on his Alfa Romeo return and Sergio Perez claimed P10 for Racing Point.

The Renault were both eliminated in Q2, with Nico Hulkenberg P11 after being pushed into the dropzone by Perez, who lapped 0.030 seconds faster.

Hulkenberg had gone out for a second run, but aborted that effort due to what he reported as a boost pressure dropout. He had to rely on his first run, which was compromised by time lost in the final sector.

Daniel Ricciardo was 0.008 seconds slower than Hulkenberg after being unable to make a big enough improvement on his second run to remain in the top ten, admitting he didn’t have the confidence early in the lap after traffic compromised his out-lap.

Alex Albon was the fastest of the Toro Rosso drivers in P13, 0.138 seconds faster than F1 returnee team-mate Daniil Kvyat, who was P15 – the duo sandwiching the second Alfa Romeo of Antonio Giovinazzi.

Racing Point’s Lance Stroll was quickest of those eliminated in Q1. He had momentarily jumped up to eighth after being one of the first drivers to set a time on his second set of tyres before being bumped into the dropzone by late improver Ricciardo.

Stroll complained over the radio about being impeded by another car during the session, which he identified as either a Haas or a Toro Rosso.

Carlos Sainz Jr’s first qualifying session for McLaren ended in disappointment in P18, just over half a tenth behind Gasly.

Unsurprisingly, the final two places were filled by the Williams drivers, with George Russell the faster of the two after lapping 1.276 seconds slower than Sainz.

Robert Kubica, in his first F1 qualifying session since the 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, was last and 1.707 seconds behind Russell.

He was unable to improve on his second run after kissing the wall exiting the Turn 9/10 right/left, which gave him a right-rear puncture that manifested itself at the approach to Turn 11.

So an excellent qualifying session from the champions. Can Hamilton and Mercedes start the season with the perfect result with race victory or will Ferrari strike back? Game on in Melbourne.

Qualifying positions, Australian Grand Prix:

1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m20.486s
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m20.598s
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m21.190s
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1m21.320s
5 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1m21.442s
6 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 1m21.826s
7 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1m22.099s
8 Lando Norris McLaren-Renault 1m22.304s
9 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1m22.314s
10 Sergio Perez Racing Point-Mercedes 1m22.781s
11 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1m22.562s
12 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 1m22.570s
13 Alexander Albon Toro Rosso-Honda 1m22.636s
14 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1m22.714s
15 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Honda 1m22.774s
16 Lance Stroll Racing Point-Mercedes 1m23.017s
17 Pierre Gasly Red Bull-Honda 1m23.020s
18 Carlos Sainz McLaren-Renault 1m23.084s
19 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 1m24.360s
20 Robert Kubica Williams-Mercedes 1m26.067s

9 thoughts to “Hamilton scores pole in season opener”

  1. Australian Grand Prix qualifying review as reported by Formula1.com.

    Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton have struck the first major blow in 2019, Hamilton taking pole for the Australian Grand Prix from team mate Valtteri Bottas, a full 0.7s up from the third-placed Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel.

    Hamilton clocked the lap record of Albert Park with a 1m 20.486s to snatch the initiative away from Bottas and record his sixth consecutive pole at the circuit, and a record-equalling eighth at the Australian Grand Prix.

    With many having believed that Mercedes and Ferrari were nip-and-tuck going into the session, it was a tough showing for the Scuderia, with Vettel’s team mate Charles Leclerc ending up P5 for the team having been pipped by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen at the death.

    Romain Grosjean was a strong sixth, the Frenchman within 0.4s of Leclerc’s time and one place ahead of his team mate Kevin Magnussen as Haas capitalised on their strong pre-season showing.

    McLaren rookie Lando Norris was another star of Saturday, making it through to Q3 in his first ever F1 qualifying session – in contrast to his team mate Carlos Sainz, who dropped out in Q1 – and winding up P8 in his MCL34.

    Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen and Racing Point’s Sergio Perez completed the top 10.

    Local favourite Daniel Ricciardo was unable to make it into Q3 on his first quali outing for Renault, finishing up in P12, one place down on his team mate Nico Hulkenberg, while Pierre Gasly had a terrible start to his Red Bull career proper, failing to make it out of Q1 in his RB15.

  2. After dominating qualifying with a clear seven tenths advantage over rival Ferrari, Mercedes are feeling uncertain if the W10 is it as fast as it looks heading into the race on Sunday. Motorsport.com has the news story.

    Toto Wolff says his Mercedes Formula 1 team cannot judge whether its Australian Grand Prix qualifying domination was an “outlier” or if it is truly that much faster than Ferrari.

    Lewis Hamilton led a Mercedes one-two in Melbourne, beating teammate Valtteri Bottas to pole by just a tenth as Sebastian Vettel lapped 0.7s slower in the lead Ferrari.

    Vettel had emerged from pre-season testing as the benchmark and Mercedes was still asserting Ferrari was the team to beat on the eve of the season opener.

    Wolff said: “When we came to Australia and hit the road running on Friday it was difficult to really know what to expect – whether we were quickest or not quickest, or whether it would be very close.

    “And we had a great Friday. We didn’t trust it completely, and the car was equally good today.

    “It’s just all the work that has gone in since we started testing and the analysis since then that put a car on track that was really fast.

    “But it wasn’t the easiest of starts in Barcelona and we can’t judge yet whether it was a bit of an outlier because Melbourne is different or whether generally we have a car that is as fast as it looks or seems today.”

    Wolff said Mercedes’ performance proves the car is fast but it needs to understand why it was able to unlock this level of pace, after Hamilton and Bottas expressed their surprise at their speed after qualifying.

    Last season, Hamilton qualified on pole with a 0.6s advantage over Ferrari but Vettel won the race and proceeded to have the faster car over the next few grands prix.

    Asked by Motorsport.com if he would be disappointed if Mercedes did not continue like this, or if it would rationalise the performance: “I would like to continue this way of course, but I don’t think this is what we can expect.

    “I believe that the championship is going to be equally fought over like it was last year.

    “Just because we had a very good Friday and a very good Saturday in Melbourne, it doesn’t mean this will be a home run for the championship.

    “On the contrary, we will – like last year – need to stretch ourselves to the maximum and really leave no stone unturned, like we did after Barcelona to keep ourselves competitive in the way we’ve been today.”

    Mercedes introduced a major aerodynamic package in the second week of testing but it was not until the final day in Spain that Wolff said he saw light at the end of the tunnel.

    “We were really experimenting with the car in order to understand when it was performing, how it was performing,” said Wolff.

    “Then on Friday when we started the first proper low-fuel runs the car was together, we were equally fast with Ferrari, and we felt there was an upside from there.”

  3. Mercedes’ advantage over Ferrari in Australian Grand Prix qualifying was a “real shock” to Lewis Hamilton, while his teammate Valtteri Bottas admitted he was “blown away” by their performance.

    Hamilton edged Bottas by just over a tenth to steal pole at the end of a frantic first shootout of the season in Melbourne, with testing benchmark Sebastian Vettel trailing Hamilton by 0.7s.

    Ferrari had widely been considered to hold an advantage heading to Australia, and Hamilton insisted after qualifying that Mercedes “truly believed” it was behind, while Bottas claimed nobody in the team “could have imagined we would be in this position”.

    Asked by Motorsport.com if he agreed with his teammate’s admission he was “a little bit blown away” by Mercedes’ performance, Hamilton said: “Absolutely. There was absolutely no [indicator of this result after testing].

    “I felt good that we had a decent package to work with but we were aware that we might be slightly behind.

    “That is what we honestly thought when they showed us the summary of how testing went: we were behind Ferrari from the analysis we did.

    “We haven’t changed the car, we’ve understood the car more.

    “Yesterday Ferrari were with us, they looked like they were a little bit heavy on fuel initially and then they dropped the fuel and were quite on par on performance.

    “We thought we were closer than we thought it would be after testing, and all of a sudden they lost a bit of performance in [FP3], which we were not expecting.

    “It is a real shock.”

    Hamilton repeated his Friday claim that Mercedes had not made changes to the car itself since testing.

    He also said the change in fortune between the teams, and the videos of Vettel’s laps in testing, meant he had even asked his rival if Ferrari had run the car so low on fuel that they were “on fumes” at Barcelona.

    “He says he wasn’t,” added Hamilton. “It is a difficult circuit [Albert Park] and it is quite gusty here as well.

    “It could be a number of things, but I am really, really grateful for where our car is and where it enabled us to be today.

    “I know Ferrari will be pushing hard and progressing over the coming days and tomorrow I am sure that they will put up a good fight as they are always strong in the races.”

    Hamilton said he had to “brush off” an unusual mistake on his first flying lap in Q3 and “pull something special at the end” in order to topple teammate Bottas.

    He added that there “could not really be a better way to start the year” than Mercedes’ crushing one-two.

    Source: Motorsport.com

  4. The time gap between the F1 champs was seven tenths and this surprised Sebastian Vettel commenting that Ferrari “should be better than this”. Motorsport.com has the news story.

    Sebastian Vettel says Ferrari “should be better” than it showed in qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix after rival Mercedes caused a surprise in locking out of the front row.

    Ferrari had headed to the F1 season opener as clear favourite after a very strong winter testing programme at Barcelona.

    But Mercedes turned the tables on the Italian team with a surprise step up in form as Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas took the top two positions on the grid with Vettel down in third.

    Vettel said afterwards that he never expected such form from Mercedes, but has faith that Ferrari’s SF90 is quicker than it has showed in Melbourne.

    “I am certainly surprised, I think everybody is, probably even themselves,” said the German.

    “I think yesterday we didn’t have a good day, and today felt better. But in terms of gap and pace it was very similar.

    “For sure there is some homework for us to do to understand. I still think we have a great car. We should be better than this, so I am looking forward to tomorrow.”

    Vettel believes that Ferrari is not lacking in any specific area at Albert Park, but suggests that Mercedes is better in the kind of low and medium corners that characterise the track.

    “I don’t think the straight line is a problem as we are quite competitive down the straights, we are just losing in the corners,” he said. “There are 16 corners around here and I think it is fairly evenly spread.

    “Probably by the looks of it and so far it was more the lower and medium stuff, rather than the high speed, which also speaks for a strong car in general.

    “I haven’t got the balance yet that maybe I would like to have in the lower speed, and not the confidence and trust which again around here can make a big difference.”

    Vettel was clear, however, that the Ferrari has not felt as good in Australia as it did throughout pre-season testing.

    “We have probably something like 10-15 degrees more ambient [temperature], a hotter track, and different circuit, so overall different conditions,” he said.

    “But the car felt really good in testing and probably around here this weekend so far it didn’t feel as good yet.

    “Yesterday was a difficult day for us, it was tricky. Today felt a bit better, but there is not an awful lot of time to try different things.

    “You have to get on with it, sessions come fast, especially in qualifying you can’t change much, if anything you get a better understanding of where you are losing out or where it feels uncomfortable.

    “For us there is a bit of a margin but certainly the gap is there today and was a surprise, we didn’t expect it coming here. But now it is that way and we focus on tomorrow and don’t worry about the gap now.”

  5. The star of qualifying was Lando Norris, who managed to qualify his McLaren in the top 10 in his first F1 appearance. Motorsport.com has the full story.

    Formula 1 rookie Lando Norris and his McLaren team have admitted his progress to the top-10 shootout in Australian Grand Prix qualifying was a surprise.

    The 19-year-old will start his grand prix debut from eighth on the grid in Melbourne, after McLaren’s low-key pre-season gave way to an unexpectedly encouraging qualifying performance.

    Norris beat the Alfa Romeo of Kimi Raikkonen and Racing Point of Sergio Perez in Q3, as McLaren every team in the midfield except Haas.

    Norris said he had “a lot of nerves” going into qualifying because he had “never managed to put it all together” through practice.

    Asked by Motorsport.com if he thought he would be in the final part of qualifying, Norris said: “Definitely not!

    “I think you can tell by doing three runs in Q1 we were a bit unsure if I could make it into Q2, so we put a lot of effort into trying to achieve that.

    “We had only one set of new tyres for Q2 so we weren’t in as strong a position as some of the other drivers, but still got into Q3.

    “It’s definitely not what we were expecting – everyone, the team, myself and you guys [the media].”

    McLaren F1 CEO Zak Brown agreed with his new driver that eighth “exceeded where we were going to qualify”.

    Norris’s teammate Carlos Sainz Jr was knocked out of the opening phase of qualifying and will start 18th, although this was exacerbated by the Spaniard being held up by Robert Kubica just as the Williams driver had an off in Q1.

    “What you want your drivers to do is to do their job extremely well and not make mistakes, and they both did that,” said Brown.

    “And Lando being a rookie, you’d be understanding if he did make a mistake, and he didn’t.”

    Sainz opted to use two sets of tyres in qualifying, compared to three for Norris, as he said he felt “pretty confident” after practice.

    He was knocked out of Q1 after suffering a “problem with the engine” that cost him time on his banker lap, and then lapped just one tenth of a second slower than Raikkonen in 15th.

    “We went into a second run and I was coming in much faster, there was a massive track evolution, and I was coming in with a lap good enough for the top 10,” Sainz explained.

    “But unfortunately I found Robert with a puncture going into the last two corners, so you can imagine how frustrating that was.

    “You can imagine I’m disappointed, because up until that point the weekend had been good, and when one car is in Q3 you want to have both of them there.”

  6. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc says he did a “very bad job” in Q3 and will start the Australian Grand Prix in P5. Motorsport.com has the details.

    Charles Leclerc admitted he did a “very bad job” in his first qualifying session with Ferrari ahead of Formula 1’s Australian Grand Prix.

    The Monegasque driver was quicker than teammate Sebastian Vettel in both Q1 and Q2, but ended up fifth on the grid behind the two Mercedes cars, Vettel and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

    Leclerc, who had been quickest of all in the first qualifying segment, took the blame for the disappointing showing.

    “Very disappointed with myself,” said Leclerc. “I was not here when I had to in Q3. It’s all up to me.

    “I did a very bad job in the last run of Q3 and unfortunately it showed on the laptime.

    “That’s life. I will learn from it and I’ll come back stronger.”

    The Ferrari driver described his final Q3 lap as “pretty poor”.

    “I locked my front wheel in the first corner of the second lap and I locked the front wheel and I lost quite a bit of time,” he explained.

    “Then overall the lap was pretty poor. I did some mistakes here and there.”

    Leclerc feels he had the pace to outqualify teammate Vettel, but conceded Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas were out of reach today.

    “Obviously there’s the gap to Mercedes that I can’t really explain for now and that’s why we have to work very hard,” he added.

    “But on my side, I didn’t do the job and there was definitely a bit of time, but the top two was unreachable.

    “I think the potential to be top three was there.”

    Like Vettel, Leclerc said finishing over seven tenths of a second behind Mercedes was very surprising.

    “I think yesterday they already showed very strong pace but we still had the doubt and we still had some things and they probably too but we didn’t know how much.

    “I think it’s a pretty big shock to see how far we are.”

  7. This was a disappointing first qualifying from Pierre Gasly as he was knocked out in the early stages in Q1. Christian Horner said that Gasly Q1 exit down was a “perfect storm”. Motorsport.com has the news story.

    Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has denied suggestions that the team got Pierre Gasly’s strategy wrong in qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix, saying the Frenchman was caught out by “a perfect storm”.

    Gasly endured a nightmare first qualifying session for his new outfit and will start only 17th on the grid after being eliminated in the opening segment.

    This marked Red Bull’s first Q1 exit since Max Verstappen couldn’t participate in qualifying at all last year in Monaco after a practice crash.

    The plan was for the Frenchman to get through Q1 using only one set of tyres, with a fast lap, a cool-down lap to recharge the battery, and a second fast lap.

    However, circumstances led to Gasly doing two cool-down laps, and then subsequently his second fast lap was not quicker than the first.

    By the time Gasly returned to the garage it was too late to take on a fresh set of tyres.

    “It was frustrating for Pierre,” Horner told Motorsport.com.

    “His first lap was strong, he did a 1m23.0s, and he was a tenth up on Max’s first lap.

    “I think he went fourth quickest, and we expected the second lap to be quicker.

    “Pierre didn’t manage to improve, as Max did by two and a half tenths, and the circuit in the meantime ramped up with obviously other teams taking second sets of tyres.

    “Our objective was to get through qualifying on one set to put ourselves on the front foot for the second two sessions.

    “It was unfortunate. It was one of those things.”

    Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko had suggested immediately after qualifying that the team had made a strategy error and owed Gasly an apology.

    Horner said it was not that straightforward.

    “Unfortunately the spanner in the works was having to do two charge laps – that was exactly the same as Lewis Hamilton – and unfortunately his second flying lap didn’t improve,” Horner explained.

    “There was an issue on the dash on the recharging of his battery after having set that lap.

    “The bottom line was by the time the right communication had been given to him it took two cool-down laps to recharge the battery to get it into the right position to start his final timed lap, which unfortunately he didn’t improve on.

    “And in the meantime the circuit was evolving quicker than we expected.

    “So it was almost almost a perfect storm.

    “With 20/20 hindsight it’s easy to say, ‘Yes we should have taken two sets,’ but you can only deal with what you know at the time.

    “After he completed his second flying lap, he had missed the cut-off of getting in, getting a set of tyres, and getting out again.

    “At the same time the track was ramping up quickly. I don’t think anybody expected it – even Sebastian [Vettel] was extremely close to the cut-off.

    “Obviously it’s all very tight, it’s frustrating for him in his first qualy, but I’m sure he’ll race strongly from there tomorrow.”

  8. Pierre Gasly put his Q1 elimination at his first Formula 1 race for Red Bull Racing at the Australian Grand Prix down to an over-optimistic strategy.

    Red Bull chose to only make one run in the first segment of Melbourne qualifying.

    Going into the final minutes, it sat third with Max Verstappen and eighth with Gasly.

    But improvements from most of the rest of the field pushed them down the order.

    Though Verstappen still made it through to Q2 in 10th, Gasly – just 0.144 seconds slower – was 17th and eliminated.

    “We’ve been a bit optimistic with one run and I’m really, really disappointed with that,” Gasly told BBC Radio 5 Live.

    “That was our strategy. I was pretty happy with my first lap, ended up one tenth behind Max, so only lost a little bit.

    “We just didn’t expect others to improve so much on the second run.”

    Gasly said he knew as soon as he saw other drivers’ second-run times that going out in Q1 was a strong possibility.

    “When I saw the improvements they were doing, they were winning almost a second, I quickly understood that it would be pretty tough,” Gasly added.

    “It’s disappointing because FP3 was better, I felt more comfortable with the car in qualifying and I think we had the pace to get a decent result.

    “We got caught out by track evolution and it cost us a lot.”

    Source: Motorsport.com

  9. Robert Kubica labelled his brush with the wall in qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix as “embarrassing”, but said he had at least learned some important lessons about Williams’ troubled FW42.

    Although Williams has been stuck to the bottom of the timesheets throughout the Melbourne weekend, Kubica said before he hit the wall at Turn 10 in Q1 that there had actually been signs of some progress.

    “It has been quite complicated for different reasons,” said Kubica, who qualified last after the wall hit gave him a puncture.

    “I think qualifying was difficult with the general feeling in the car, but suddenly those feelings improved massively for the last run. But then I complicated my life with a silly mistake.

    “It was not even a mistake from over-driving or something like that. It was probably evaluation of space, which is a bit embarrassing.

    “But at least I get now a better overview of how much space I will have when I get to the street circuit. It shouldn’t happen.

    “However, there are a couple of things that we understood in qualifying better. Unfortunately it will not change anything for the outcome of the team and position wise, but at least we learned something which I think is important.”

    Kubica said difficulties he had had through the Melbourne weekend left him lacking confidence to push too much on his final run.

    “The problem is I was starting from such a bad feeling before that lap that in many places I under drove the car,” he said. “That is normal when you start from not knowing things.

    “But at least we understood the direction of what the car needs from the set-up point of view. It is a bit late, but better late than never.

    “Probably we went into the direction which was a bit like last year, but actually this car is quite different to drive. It has different characteristics, and it was not paying off. So at least from a difficult day there were some positive things.”

    Kubica is under no illusions about how difficult things will be in the race tomorrow though, having claimed he got overtaken more on a race sim in Friday practice than he had in his entire F1 career.

    “It will be an important day and unfortunately it will be my first time [since last in F1] I will do a race more than 15 laps in a row, as I haven’t had the opportunity to do it in Barcelona.

    “There are a lot of things to discover, but seeing yesterday the long runs it will be very tough. When people were doing race sims and longer runs, I was overtaken more than in all four years I was racing – and that was in 45 minutes of driving.

    “So it will be a long race. But it is extremely important to get this done, to get some information and I think in the end, although it doesn’t look positive, it is a very positive day for me.”

    Source: Motorsport.com

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