Lewis Hamilton will start from his fiftieth career pole position at tomorrow’s Australian Grand Prix, although the main talking point of the day was the dreadful revamped qualifying which saw no car on track for the final three minutes of Q3.

Crowd favourite Daniel Ricciardo was the first driver to be eliminated in Q3 and will start from eighth position. From there the grid was set, as no driver – apart from the Mercedes duo – attempted to improve his initial lap time.

Once Carlos Sainz Jr and Felipe Massa were eliminated in seventh and sixth respectively, the call came from Ferrari that they would not be going out to the track to attempt to improve their position. Sebastian Vettel was third and half a second off the pace, while Kimi Räikkönen was a further four-tenths off his teammate.

Max Verstappen was then eliminated in fifth, as the two Mercedes drivers took to the track to fight it out for pole.

What little chance at redemption the qualifying format had was thrown out the window, as once Hamilton and Rosberg both improved their laps, they were called into the pits and held there by Mercedes. This left no chance for a fight for pole, or give Rosberg a chance to respond to Hamilton’s lap.

There was a long line at the beginning of qualifying due to the new format, where almost every driver took to the track to bank an early flying lap to improve their chances of a higher grid position.

Manor Racing’s Pascal Wehrlein was the first driver to be eliminated in the new system, after he was stuck in the garage and unable to set a lap time. He was soon followed by his teammate Rio Haryanto, who will drop behind Wehrlein after he received a grid penalty for colliding with Romain Grosjean in the pit lane during FP3.

The Haas pairing of Esteban Gutiérrez and Romain Grosjean followed the Manors into the eliminated zone, as Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat and Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson from Sauber were caught out by the new system, thinking they could complete the lap they were on after the countdown clock had reached zero.

The new qualifying system has immediately had a negative impact with Formula 1 fans, with many calling for the format to be dumped immediately.

Red Bull Racing’s Team Principal Christian Horner commented on the issue, suggesting that Formula 1 should apologise to fans for such a poor display – rather ignoring the fact that the F1 Strategy Group, of which he is a member, developed this proposed format to begin with…

Q3 Qualifiers Team / Entry Result Gap
1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 W07 Hybrid 1:23.837
2. Nico Rosberg de Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 W07 Hybrid 1:24.197 + 0.360
3. Sebastian Vettel de Scuderia Ferrari SF16-H 1:24.675 + 0.838
4. Kimi Räikkönen fi Scuderia Ferrari SF16-H 1:25.033 + 1.196
5. Max Verstappen nl Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR11 1:25.434 + 1.597
6. Felipe Massa br Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW38 1:25.458 + 1.621
7. Carlos Sainz Jr es Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR11 1:25.582 + 1.745
8. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB12 1:25.589 + 1.752
Q2 Qualifiers Team / Entry Result Gap**
9. Sergio Pérez Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM09 1:25.753 + 1.148
10. Nico Hülkenberg de Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM09 1:25.865 + 1.260
11. Valtteri Bottas fi Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW38 1:25.961 + 1.356
12. Fernando Alonso es McLaren-Honda MP4-31 1:26.125 + 1.520
13. Jenson Button McLaren-Honda MP4-31 1:26.304 + 1.699
14. Jolyon Palmer Renault Sport F1 Team RS16 1:27.601 + 2.996
15. Kevin Magnussen dk Renault Sport F1 Team RS16 1:27.742 + 3.137
Q1 Qualifiers Team / Entry Result Gap*
16. Marcus Ericsson Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C35 1:27.435 + 2.084
17. Felipe Nasr br Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C35 1:27.958 + 2.607
18. Daniil Kvyat ru Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB12 1:28.006 + 2.655
19. Romain Grosjean fr Haas F1 Ferrari VF-16 1:28.322 + 2.971
20. Esteban Gutiérrez Haas F1 Ferrari VF-16 1:29.606 + 4.255
21. Rio Haryanto id Manor Racing Mercedes MRT5 1:29.627 + 4.276
22. Pascal Wehrlein de Manor Racing Mercedes MRT5 1:29.642 + 4.291

* Denotes gap to fastest Q1 time of 1:25.351 posted by Lewis Hamilton
** Denotes gap to fastest Q2 time of 1:24.605 posted by Lewis Hamilton
^ Rio Haryanto will start from P22 following a grid penalty for causing an avoidable collision with Romain Grosjean during FP3

George Hitchens Photography

Image via Mercedes AMG Petronas F1

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Josh Kruse

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