Hamilton shines in rain hit qualifying

Lewis Hamilton has qualified on pole position ahead of tomorrow’s Australian Grand Prix, the first race of the season. The Mercedes driver denied Aussie Daniel Ricciardo a dream home pole position, who impressed on his Red Bull debut to qualify on the front row. Hamilton’s team-mate Nico Rosberg, who had set provisional pole, was pushed back to third place.

It was a dry start to qualifying for Q1 but with the threat of rain looming, all drivers looked to get out on track as soon as possible to get a lap on the board. Hamilton was first to do so, setting a 1:31.6 before being pipped by Williams driver Felipe Massa. Sebastian Vettel, who was one of the last drivers out of the pits, clipped the wall on his way round the track – an uncharacteristic error from the four time world champion, who had to wrestle his car around the track. Rain started to fall during the session, bringing an end to any real competitive running and certainly hampering any chance drivers in the drop zone had of getting through to Q2. It was a particularly dire session for Lotus in particular with Pastor Maldonado failing to keep the E22 on the track, and bumping through the gravel on numerous occasions. He ended the session in P22 with no time on the board. His team-mate Romain Grosjean did set a lap-time but only enough to just out-qualify Maldonado in P21. Caterham’s Kamui Kobayashi sneaked through to Q2, with Max Chilton out-qualifying his team-mate. Esteban Gutierrez – who had had gearbox problems in FP3 – qualified behind both Marussia cars and will start the race last after incurring a five place grid drop for changing his gearbox. Up at the top Ricciardo led from Kevin Magnussen and Massa.

The rain persisted to fall between Q1 and Q2 and so cars took to the track with intermediate tyres as qualifying continued. Kamui Kobayashi decided to run with the full wet tyres on his Caterham. As expected the times started falling as the session progressed and the track started to dry, with Valtteri Bottas, Massa, Rosberg and Ricciardo knocking each other from the top spot. Kimi Raikkonen became the first major casualty of the weather as he lost the car and spun, ending up hitting the wall and bringing out yellow flags. In doing so, it compromised driver on a fast lap as they had to slow in the yellow sector. Drivers affected included Vettel whose lap time was not enough to get him through to the pole position shoot-out. Jenson Button looked to be through but after returning to the pits he was dropped out by an impressive lap from rookie Daniil Kvyat. Raikkonen’s crash means that tomorrow three world champions will start beside each other outside of the top ten. To add insult to injury, Ricciardo continued to demonstrate just what the RB10 is capable of by setting a lap-time just 0.03s slower than Rosberg. Sergio Perez had a torrid session, running across the gravel and struggling with the car and was out-qualified by former team-mate Kobayashi in the Caterham.

So going through to the pole position shoot out were Rosberg, Ricciardo, Fernando Alonso, Hamilton Magnussen, Nico Hulkenberg, Jean-Eric Vergne, Bottas, Massa, and Kvyat. Everyone poured out of the pits on full tyres, apart from Alonso who decided to try his luck on the intermediates. After the initial runs, which saw Rosberg lead from Ricciardo, the track started to move towards intermediates, although some drivers opted to put on a new set of full wets. Provisional pole went to Rosberg, who knocked Hamilton from the top spot; however it was too late for the German to start another lap, while Hamilton was already on another flyer. Meanwhile Magnussen impressed to go third with his lap, but eventually dropped to fourth – an impressive job for the rookie who has so far emulated what Hamilton achieved on his rookie debut with McLaren. A mention should also be given to Kvyat who impressed on his debut as well, qualifying in the top ten (eighth) ahead of both Williams drivers. His team-mate Vergne qualified a career best sixth place. Ricciardo finished his last lap and snatched pole position from Rosberg – much to the delight of the crowds – but it was Hamilton who had the last word, finishing three tenths clear in pole position.

The grid lines up as follows for tomorrow’s race (following penalties):

  1. Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes – 1:44.231
  2. Daniel Ricciardo – Red Bull – 1:44.548
  3. Nico Rosberg – Mercedes – 1:44.595
  4. Kevin Magnussen – McLaren – 1:45.745
  5. Fernando Alonso – Ferrari – 1:45.819
  6. Jean-Eric Vergne – Toro Rosso – 1:45.864
  7. Nico Hulkenberg – Force India – 1:46.030
  8. Daniil Kvyat – Toro Rosso – 1:47.368
  9. Felipe Massa – Williams – 1:48.079
  10. Jenson Button – McLaren – 1:44.437 (Q2)
  11. Kimi Raikkonen – Ferrari – 1:44.494 (Q2)
  12. Sebastian Vettel – Red Bull – 1:44.668 (Q2)
  13. Adrian Sutil – Sauber – 1:45.655 (Q2)
  14. Kamui Kobayashi – Caterham – 1:45.867 (Q2)
  15. Valterri Bottas* – Williams – 1:48.147
  16. Sergio Perez – Force India – 1:47.293 (Q2)
  17. Max Chilton – Marussia – 1:34.293 (Q1)
  18. Jules Bianchi – Marussia – 1:34.794 (Q1)
  19. Marcus Ericsson – Caterham – 1:45.157 (Q1)
  20. Romain Grosjean – Lotus – 1:36.993 (Q1)
  21. Pastor Maldonado** – Lotus – No Time Set
  22. Esteban Gutierrez – Sauber – 1:35.117

* 5 place gearbox penalty
** allowed to race at stewards discretion

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