Lewis Hamilton has claimed the twentieth pole position of his career, leading team-mate Jenson Button to a McLaren 1-2 in qualifying for tomorrow’s Australian Grand Prix. Romain Grosjean claimed a sensational third on the grid, while Michael Schumacher recorded fourth place (his best qualifying result since his comeback). Defending champion Sebastian Vettel qualified only sixth, behind team-mate Mark Webber.
With little in the way of dry running, qualifying had the potential to throw up a few surprises, and so this proved to be the case today.
Of particular interest has been how some of the championship’s newer drivers outperformed their more established and/or experienced team-mates, as was evidenced in the performances of Grosjean, along with Pastor Maldonado and Nico Hülkenberg, who each outqualified team-mates Bruno Senna and Paul di Resta on their first outings together.
Trying to find a clear piece of track proved crucial in Q1, particularly given the speed differential between the frontrunners and the slower competitors. It was little surprise to see both HRT drivers in the thick of getting in the way of other drivers, and the Stewards will speak to both Pedro de la Rosa (for hindering Heikki Kovalainen) and Narain Karthikeyan (for hindering Fernando Alonso).
We had predicted that Felipe Massa would be the most likely candidate to be eliminated in Q1, but he managed to pull out a quick lap to scrape through, leaving F1 returnee Kimi Räikkönen in the drop zone. The Finn was knocked out of the running when he had a wild slide at Turn 12 on his final flying lap.
Joining him in the elimination were both Caterhams and, as expected both Marussia and HRT entries. De la Rosa and Karthikeyan both failed to post times quick enough to fall under the 107% threshold, and will have to rely on the generosity of the FIA stewards to be allowed to start tomorrow’s race.
Q2 was just a few minutes old when the red flags were unfurled after Fernando Alonso beached his Ferrari in the Turn 1 kitty litter. Replays showed the Spaniard mirrored team-mate Massa’s schoolboy error from yesterday’s practice session, dropping two wheels into the grass as he braked for the corner. His attempts to convince the marshals to push him out of the gravel trap were laughably futile, and he was sent back to the paddock on a motorbike while his F2012 was retrieved.
The remainder of the session proved generally incident-free, and at the end both Saubers, both Ferraris, Paul di Resta, Bruno Senna and Jean-Eric Vergne were knocked out of the reckoning. This left the expected frontrunners in the top-ten, while Daniel Ricciardo would make his maiden Q3 appearance. Hülkenberg, Grosjean and Maldonado had looked equally impressive, and would also make the Q3 cut ahead of their more experienced team-mates.
Q3 again proved a tense affair. Hamilton set the benchmark time on his first run, hotly pursued by the chasing quartet of Button, Vettel, Schumacher and Rosberg. Webber then went out for his sole run and moved up to second, but he was bumped down the order as Schumacher, Button and then Grosjean all leapt ahead.
Vettel couldn’t improve and he was dumped down to sixth place – his worst qualifying performance in over a year – while single-lap efforts from Maldonado and Hülkenberg earned them eighth and ninth, just behind Nico Rosberg.
Despite having made the Q3 cut, Toro Rosso new boy and hometown hero Daniel Ricciardo did not post a qualifying time in the final cut. No doubt the decision was made to give him some strategic flexibility for tomorrow’s race, but it did deprive fans of the chance to celebrate a better qualifying performance for both Australian drivers.
2012 Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix – Qualifying Results:
|1.||Lewis Hamilton||McLaren Mercedes||1:26.800||1:25.626||1:24.922|
|2.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes||1:26.832||1:25.663||1:25.074|
|3.||Romain Grosjean||Lotus F1 Renault||1:26.498||1:25.845||1:25.302|
|4.||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes AMG F1||1:26.586||1:25.571||1:25.336|
|5.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing Renault||1:27.117||1:26.297||1:25.651|
|6.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing Renault||1:26.773||1:25.982||1:25.668|
|7.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG F1||1:26.763||1:25.469||1:25.686|
|8.||Pastor Maldonado||Williams Renault||1:26.803||1:26.206||1:25.908|
|9.||Nico Hülkenberg||Force India Mercedes||1:27.464||1:26.314||1:26.451|
|10.||Daniel Ricciardo||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari||1:27.024||1:26.319||no time|
|11.||Jean-Éric Vergne||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari||1:26.493||1:26.429|
|12.||Fernando Alonso||Scuderia Ferrari||1:26.688||1:26.494|
|13.||Kamui Kobayashi||Sauber Ferrari||1:26.182||1:26.590|
|14.||Bruno Senna||Williams Renault||1:27.004||1:26.663|
|15.||Paul di Resta||Force India Mercedes||1:27.469||1:27.086|
|16.||Felipe Massa||Scuderia Ferrari||1:27.633||1:27.497|
|17.||Sergio Pérez||Sauber Ferrari||1:26.596||no time|
|18.||Kimi Räikkönen||Lotus F1 Renault||1:27.758|
|19.||Heikki Kovalainen||Caterham Renault||1:28.679|
|20.||Vitaly Petrov||Caterham Renault||1:29.018|
|21.||Timo Glock||Marussia Racing Cosworth||1:30.923|
|22.||Charles Pic||Marussia Racing Cosworth||1:31.670|
|23.||Pedro de la Rosa||HRTF1 Cosworth||1:33.495|
|23.||Narain Karthikeyan||HRTF1 Cosworth||1:33.643|
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