Sebastian Vettel will lead a Red Bull Racing 1-2 off the front row of the grid in today’s Australian Grand Prix after a stunning late lap on a drying track in Q3. Vettel and Mark Webber secured the result many people predicted but the ever-changing conditions forced to go through a thrilling session to achieve it.
Seventeen hours later than originally scheduled, Q2 finally got underway with every driver opting for intermediate tyres. As he had been in the torrential conditions of Saturday, Nico Rosberg was in sensational form for Mercedes, setting the quickest time of all. The four teams believed to have a pace advantage over the rest all made it into the top ten unscathed but McLaren almost outsmarted themselves with a hasty switch to slicks.
Sergio Perez was the first to take the gamble but found no grip when he reached the final sector in particular. A quick pit-stop sent him out on another set of supersofts but the damage had already been done, leaving the Mexican to start his first race with the team from fifteenth on the grid. Jenson Button dashed back onto intermediates and punched his ticket for the top ten shootout but Nico Hulkenberg was less fortunate, being squeezed into eleventh. Adrian Sutil could only manage twelfth in the Force India with the Toro Rossos of Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo together on row seven after their impressive wet performance faded away. Valtteri Bottas will join Perez on row eight, completing a miserable qualifying for Williams.
Q3 started with intermediates still the way to go but Jenson Button went for a contrary strategy, holding back before racing out on supersofts five minutes from time. His first flying lap, a 1:32.485, was good enough for provisional pole but as the tyres grained, the three-time Melbourne winner tumbled to tenth.
Having timed his switch to slicks slightly later, Lewis Hamilton was a full three seconds faster but Sebastian Vettel lowered the benchmark even further by clocking a 1:27.407. Mark Webber made a slight error in the final sector but still slotted into second while Hamilton kept the pace up on his second flying lap to grab third for Mercedes. The Ferraris will line up fourth and fifth with Felipe Massa springing a surprise by edging out Fernando Alonso but Nico Rosberg will be disappointed with sixth after dominating in the wet.
The Lotus drivers will have their work cut out to maximise the race pace of the E21 from the fourth row with Kimi Raikkonen leading Romain Grosjean off the line while Paul Di Resta heads an all-British fifth row ahead of Button.