Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team driver Lewis Hamilton took pole position in qualifying ahead of the Australian Grand Prix, three tenths of a second clear of Scuderia Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel, to take back the advantage ahead of tomorrow’s race, in a session that saw Red Bull Racing driver Daniel Ricciardo crash out.
Hamilton set a time of 1:22.188 to take pole, but was run extremely close by Vettel in the final moments. Only the perfect lap from the Brit would be enough to defy the Ferrari driver, and Hamilton produced the goods right when it was needed.
It was a tense final few moments however, when Ricciardo found himself in the wall with just eight minutes of the session remaining. The Australian was carrying too much speed into turn fourteen, causing him to lose the rear of the RB13 and slide through the gravel, before hitting the tyre barrier backwards and ending his qualifying session early.
That incident brought out the red flags and halted proceedings whilst the Red Bull was removed from the track. Vettel was the last driver to cross the line after the resumption, and it was a nail-biting final few minutes for Mercedes fans as the German put in his final lap. It was not enough to topple the Brit at the top however, and second place was where he slotted in.
Valtteri Bottas was third, just three hundredths of a second shy of the Ferrari, after a scrappy final lap ruined the Finn’s chances of taking his first pole. He will line up on the grid next to fellow countryman Kimi Raikkonen, who is six tenths further back in fourth.
The fastest of the Red Bull’s was Max Verstappen who could only muster enough speed to go fifth, and four tenths off Raikkonen’s pace, the Dutchman unable to pose any sort of threat to the two Ferrari or Mercedes drivers.
Haas F1 Team driver Romain Grosjean, who for once seemed to be enjoying himself out on track, finished best of the rest in sixth, in what was a brilliant session for the Frenchman. Felipe Massa was an excellent seventh for Williams Martini Racing, considering the brake problems the Brazilian was experiencing earlier today, and the electrical issue that curtailed his running on Friday.
Scuderia Toro Rosso drivers Carlos Sainz Jr and Daniil Kvyat again lined up eighth and ninth, mirroring the outcome of FP3 earlier his morning, with a deflated Ricciardo completing the top ten at his home race.
Sahara Force India F1 Team driver Sergio Perez, who complained of a gear shift problem, was the first driver to be able to choose which tyres to start the race on in eleventh, just ahead of former team-mate Nico Hulkenberg, now driving for the Renault Sport Formula 1 Team.
McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team driver Fernando Alonso, who had a new front wing and bargeboards for this session, was thirteenth, having made it through to Q2 relatively easily, a feat that may have surprised many people having seen McLaren’s winter test session.
Esteban Ocon was fourteenth in the second Force India, just ahead of Sauber F1 Team driver Marcus Ericsson and stand in team-mate Antonio Giovinazzi, who replaces Pascal Wehrlein for the remainder of the Australian Grand Prix weekend, after the German ruled himself out of competing, feeling that his lack of preparation for this weekend would see him underperform and that would be unfair to the team.
Kevin Magnussen was seventeenth, 2.8 seconds and eleven places down on team-mate Grosjean, the Dane having struggled to get the right set up with the VF17 so far this weekend, and scuppering his final Q1 lap by running wide.
Stoffel Vandoorne was back in eighteenth, but did experience a fuel flow problem in Q1 after completing just one lap. The Belgian was able to get back out right at the end of the Q1 segment, but it left him very little time to post a serious lap time, hence him sitting five places down the order from team-mate Alonso.
The Williams engineers did a great job to get Lance Stroll out on track towards the end of Q1, after his big shunt in FP3 this morning, and the Canadian rookie will line up at the back of the grid after receiving a five place grid penalty for a gearbox change as a result of his incident.
Jolyon Palmer rounded out the positions on paper, over a second adrift of Stroll and three seconds off the pace of team-mate Hulkenberg, and the Brit could not understand why he was struggling for performance so much this weekend.
Things as expected look close at the top between Mercedes and Ferrari ahead of tomorrow’s race. It will be interesting to see if the Italian team have anything in reserve to out perform the silver arrows drivers, or whether it will all come down to who has the better strategy. We should be in for some exciting action in tomorrow’s Australian Grand Prix.
Albert Park Qualifying Results
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