The Sebastian Vettel juggernaut has continued in today’s rescheduled qualifying session for the Australian Grand Prix. The German mastered the morning’s mixed weather conditions to claim the 37th pole position of his Formula 1 career and his fiftieth front-row start.
Team-mate and crowd favourite Mark Webber qualified second-quickest at his home race, ensuring a Red Bull Racing front-row lockout. Lewis Hamilton was third-quickest in his first competitive outing with Mercedes.
After more morning rain and squally conditions, the track was damp when the second phase of qualifying got underway at 11:00am local time, after yesterday’s qualifying was postponed due to torrential rain and fading light.
The remaining sixteen cars in contention for pole all started Q2 on Pirelli’s intermediate tyres, and with conditions steadily drying, progression into the top-ten shootout for pole was going to be all about finding clear track and avoiding any mistakes.
A few teams fell victim to the temptation of switching to super-soft dry-weather tyres in the closing minutes, and McLaren and Toro Rosso both took that gamble. Of that quartet, only Jenson Button was able to scrape into the top-ten, while Sergio Pérez, Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Éric Vergne were knocked out, along with Nico Hülkenberg, Adrian Sutil and Valtteri Bottas were also knocked out.
That left the usual suspects making up the top-ten contenders for the final ten-minute hit-out in qualifying, and most of the runners – with the exception of Button and Paul di Resta – opted to venture out on intermediate tyres in the opening minutes.
A dry line eventually emerged and the field switched for a final fling on the super soft rubber. Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel traded fastest times, with the battle resolved in the German’s favour, before Webber snuck in to ensure a Red Bull 1-2 on the grid.
Felipe Massa managed to outqualify team-mate Fernando Alonso by just three-thousandths of a second, with the pair completing the top-five, while Nico Rosberg and the Lotus pairing of Romain Grosjean and Kimi Räikkönen were seventh- and eighth-fastest.
Di Resta was ninth-fastest in the Force India (importantly upstaging team-mate Adrian Sutil), while Button was miles off the pace on his slick-tyre run and will start from tenth place.
2013 Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix – Qualifying Session Times:
|1.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing Renault RB9||1:27.407|
|2.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing Renault RB9||1:27.827||+ 0.420|
|3.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04||1:28.087||+ 0.680|
|4.||Felipe Massa||Scuderia Ferrari F138||1:28.490||+ 1.083|
|5.||Fernando Alonso||Scuderia Ferrari F138||1:28.493||T+ 1.086|
|6.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04||1:28.523||+ 1.116|
|7.||Kimi Räikkönen||Lotus F1 Renault E21||1:28.738||+ 1.331|
|8.||Romain Grosjean||Lotus F1 Renault E21||1:29.013||+ 1.606|
|9.||Paul di Resta||Force India Mercedes VJM06||1:29.305||+ 1.898|
|10.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes MP4-28||1:30.357||+ 2.950|
|Q3 Cut-Off – 1:37.641||Time||Gap*|
|11.||Nico Hülkenberg||Sauber Ferrari C32||1:38.067||+ 1.873|
|12.||Adrian Sutil||Force India Mercedes VJM06||1:38.134||+ 1.940|
|13.||Jean-Éric Vergne||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8||1:38.778||+ 2.584|
|14.||Daniel Ricciardo||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8||1:39.042||+ 2.848|
|15.||Sergio Pérez||McLaren Mercedes MP4-28||1:39.900||+ 3.706|
|16.||Valtteri Bottas||Williams Renault FW35||1:40.290||+ 4.096|
|Q2 Cut-Off – 1:47.330||Time||Gap**|
|17.||Pastor Maldonado||Williams Renault FW35||1:47.614||+ 4.234|
|18.||Esteban Gutiérrez||Sauber Ferrari C32||1:47.776||+ 4.396|
|19.||Jules Bianchi||Marussia Racing Cosworth MR02||1:48.147||+ 4.767|
|20.||Max Chilton||Marussia Racing Cosworth MR02||1:48.909||+ 5.529|
|21.||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham Renault CT03||1:49.519||+ 6.139|
|107% Cut-Off – 1:50.616||Time||Gap**|
|NQ.||Charles Pic||Caterham Renault CT03||1:50.626||+ 7.246|
* Gap to fastest Q2 time of 1:36.194 by Nico Rosberg
** Gap to fastest Q1 time of 1:43.380 by Nico Rosberg