Lewis Hamilton makes history as the first man to secure pole position in Formula One’s new elimination qualifying format at the Australian Grand Prix.
History was in the making as Lewis Hamilton secured the first pole position of Formula One, 2016. Today’s pole is Lewis’ 50th in Formula One, but came in a session that fell flat as drivers’ and teams’ were not left with enough time to turn the cars around.
Going into Saturday, Lewis carried the momentum of topping both Friday practice sessions. But after rain interrupted most of the running, teams were left with work to do during the hour-long FP3. A session once again topped by the reigning champion.
And Lewis was not prepared to let Rosberg get a nose ahead in qualifying, even before the Q1 green light went green. But despite nicking in front in the pit lane as Rosberg could not make the turn as easily, Hamilton found himself behind his team-mate shortly after the action engaged.
At the end of the first timed laps, Rosberg found himself seven seconds down on Hamilton after going deep into the first corner. His second timed lap however saw him move up to fourth, with Vettel 1 hundredth back in fifth.
Q2 began in a similar fashion with Mercedes leading the pack from the pits but this time with Rosberg immediately in front. This did not help him though as Hamilton set a 1:24.605 compared to Nico’s 1:24.796.
Rosberg again lead the pack away in Q3 but saw his first time beat by both Ferrari’s and Hamilton in the provisional pole shoot-out. The full pole position shoot-out though was just between Hamilton and Rosberg as Ferrari kept both men back in the pits.
With Rosberg unable to beat Hamilton’s benchmark time, Lewis secured the first pole of the year and continues with his Australian Grand Prix clean sweep.
As Formula One set about the first instalment of its new elimination qualifying format, confusion seemed to lurk in the air as graphics did not show when the first elimination would happen and teams misjudged the point to send their drivers back out.
This cost Manor and Pascal Wehrlein as he could not set a new time in hope of beating the drop. In the end, the reining DTM Champion became the first to be eliminated – followed 90-seconds later by his team-mate. Haryanto however will start the race tomorrow behind Pascal duo to Rio’s FP3 crash with Grosjean, resulting in his debut coming with a grid penalty.
Next up came the Haas duo, as Gutierrez and Grosjean found themselves out of qualifying. Both drivers potentially could have survived longer in qualifying had they returned to the circuit earlier, as both Gutierrez and Grosjean completed faster laps after they were eliminated – but those times do not count for position.
While Haas’ drivers returned to the pits, Red Bull’s Kvyat was also in the garage and the fifth man out of qualifying after a mechanical issue stopped his running.
While Nasr became the next driver to turn in to the pit lane – after he and Sauber left it too late to return to the track to save his session – his team-mate sat just inside the Q2 positions. His place however was taken away from him after not being able to improve while Jolyon Palmer ensured both Renault’s would see another session.
Palmer incidentally set his fastest lap after his 90-second window had ended. But being the last man, the chequered flag had fallen allowing him to set another time.
Unlike Q1, the second stage of qualifying saw the first driver be eliminated while on track. But that was not the case throughout the session.
Firstly Kevin Magnussen crossed the line to set his first time of the stage, but as it was not strong enough to beat anyone he was the first to be eliminated. K-Mag’s lap was however set just before the 90-second window came to a close, meaning he could not try again.
Across the line Magnussen’s time was also over three seconds off Hamilton’s benchmark, with Palmer just a few tenths up. Jolyon then did not set another lap time and went out of qualifying unchallenged.
Likewise did Button as the Brit could not return to the track to attempt another lap due to his tyres fading. Knocked out in 13th place while Alonso sat in pits to be eliminated in 12th. A place that was held by Sainz, but the Toro Rosso driver was on track and improved to go 4th.
Hulkenberg was running in 11th and slightly improved on his time to move into 10th, pushing Bottas down into the elimination zone. As Valtteri attempted to improve, he nearly lost the rear coming out of the final corner – the place where he suffered a back injury last year causing him to miss the race.
Hulkenberg did not set another time after moving into 10th and Perez (9th) was still in the pits when his elimination clock began. Being in those positions previously would have seen you in Q3, but now they will start the race tomorrow with free tyre choice.
For the final qualifying stage at the Australian Grand Prix, Rosberg opened the times with a 1:25.260. Unfortunately for him, his time was bettered by Vettel (1:24.675), Raikkonen (1:25.033) and Hamilton (1:24.133).
Ricciardo, Massa and co. followed the believed championship contenders over the line but could only set one time each before they would have to return to the pits and watch the remainder of the session on their TVs.
Ricciardo himself posted a 1:25.589, a time that would see him knocked out first in front of his home crowd while the rest of the field made their way back to the pits.
Massa’s 1:25.458 was enough for him to better Carlos Sainz, while Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen posted a 1:25.434 with the 2015 Ferrari engine to qualify in fifth place.
With six minutes of the session remaining, Vettel and Raikkonen departed their cockpits leaving just the two Merc’s to battle for pole.
As Hamilton set new fastest first and second sectors, Rosberg improved on his previous bets to slot above the Ferrari’s for 2nd and just 0.064s down on Hamilton.
Lewis himself however improved to go a further 3 tenths up with 1:23.837, and with not enough time left for Rosberg to go back to the pits and come back out Lewis had his 50th career pole position in Formula One. The third most of any driver, with just Michael Schumacher (68) and Ayrton Senna (65) ahead.
|1||Lewis Hamilton||Q3: 1:23.837|
|9||Sergio Perez||Q2: 1:25.753|
|16||Marcus Ericsson||Q1: 1:27.435|