Hamilton and McLaren lead the way in Melbourne Qualifying
Posted by Simon Wright
IT IS A British lockout of the front row of the grid for tomorrow’s opening race of the 2012 FIA Formula One World Championship. Lewis Hamilton took his 20th career pole position for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, just edging out double Albert Park winner Jenson Button in Melbourne. On a day full of shocks, the British team took the first two positions on the grid for the first time since the 2009 European Grand Prix.
Having set the fastest time in FP3, Hamilton and McLaren came into the acid test of the one hour qualifying session looking like the driver/team combination to beat. However there were plenty of surprises along the way. Kamui Kobayashi was the fastest driver in Q1 and Red Bull looked very beatable on a Saturday. World champion Sebastian Vettel spun off this morning and was working the steering wheel of his RB8 far more than he ever did with its predecssor. The big casualty of Q1 was Kimi Raikkonen. The returning champion made a mistake on his best lap, then an error with timing saw his Lotus drop out of the running, continuing the Finn’s messy return. As anticipated, both Caterham drivers and the untested Marussia cars failed to make the cut too. Neither HRT of Narain Karthikeyan or Pedro de la Rosa made the 107% rule and for the second year running, the team has been refused permission to start the season in Australia. Again, Hispania are a case of lost time, lack of ability and a total waste of garage space!
The plight of Ferrari had been very evident in winter testing, but even the Scuderia can’t have predicted the nightmare they were to have in qualifying. Felipe Massa only just made it out of Q1, but barely featured in the second session and when he did, he looked more like trying to keep the car pointing in the right direction rather than going quickly. As ever, Fernando Alonso looked to be getting more out of his car. His chances of making the top ten ended with a rare mistake from the double world champion, as he copied Massa’s error in Friday free practice by dropping two wheels onto the grass. Same result was produced as even the Spaniard’s class couldn’t save him from being beached in the gravel, although it was at turn one, not turn nine where Massa spun off yesterday. He starts 12th and Massa 16th; Ferrari’s worst combined qualifying since Raikkonen and Giancarlo Fisichella lined up 11th and 19th for the 2009 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The car looks slow, unreliable, monstrously ugly and is struggling to stay in a straight line! They aren’t far away from crisis point.
Into the final qualifying session and Hamilton set a blistering lap of 1.24.922. No-one initially came close, although Button went only a tenth slower on his second run. Critically, Hamilton abandoned his second run when notified that the pole was his. Strangely, Red Bull didn’t get their act together. An off-colour Vettel begins sixth, behind Mark Webber. The Australian told Planet F1 afterwards; “I don’t know what happened to Seb on his last lap, it looks like he made a mistake. I didn’t have KERS either but I’m satisfied with the job I did.” Michael Schumacher was an excellent fourth for Mercedes GP, three places better than a scrappy Nico Rosberg. This allowed the Frenchman Romain Grosjean to end up a sensational third on his return to the sport for Lotus. Solid efforts from Pastor Maldonado, Nico Hulkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo saw them complete the top ten in eighth, ninth and tenth respectively.
The last time Lewis Hamilton started from pole at the Australian Grand Prix was in 2008. He won the race and ended up taking the title too. A good omen perhaps? In the press conference, he said; “I think it is going to be incredibly tough and intense through the race. Obviously looking after the tyres is going to be key. The team need to be prepared tomorrow, as do me and Jenson and I’ll make sure we are.” Well, McLaren not only have the prettiest car in 2012, but for now at least – look to have the fastest too. Tomorrow’s race looks set to be a real cracker.
AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX QUALIFYING – THE GRID (All times are fastest in Q3)
1. Lewis Hamilton (McLaren Mercedes) 1.24.922
2. Jenson Button (McLaren Mercedes) 1.25.074
3. Romain Grosjean (Lotus Renault) 1.25.302
4. Michael Schumacher (Mercedes GP) 1.25.336
5. Mark Webber (Red Bull Racing Renault) 1.25.651
6. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing Renault) 1.25.668
7. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes GP) 1.25.686
8. Pastor Maldonado (Williams Renault) 1.25.908
9. Nico Hulkenberg (Force India Mercedes) 1.26.451
10. Daniel Ricciardo (Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari) NO TIME
11. Jean-Eric Vergne (Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari)
12. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari)
13. Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber Ferrari)
14. Bruno Senna (Williams Renault)
15. Paul di Resta (Force India Mercedes)
16. Felipe Massa (Ferrari)
17. Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus Renault)
18. Heikki Kovalainen (Caterham Renault)
19. Vitaly Petrov (Caterham Renault)
20. Timo Glock (Marussia Cosworth)
21. Charles Pic (Marussia Cosworth)
22. Sergio Perez (Sauber Ferrari) – PEREZ RELEGATED FIVE PLACES DUE TO A GEARBOX CHANGE
DNQ: Pedro de la Rosa (HRT Cosworth)
DNQ: Narain Karthikeyan (HRT Cosworth)
About Simon WrightHello, I am Simon, 29 and currently work as a Picture Researcher & Product Editor for Topps Europe Ltd. In my spare time, I run the Premier League at 25 Website. I graduated from the University of Northampton in 2012 with a 2:1 degree in BA Hons Journalism.
Posted on March 17, 2012, in Qualifying Reports and tagged 2012, Albert Park, Caterham, jenson button, kimi raikkonen, Lewis Hamilton, Lotus, marussia, McLaren, sebastian vettel. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.