Lewis Hamilton secures the first pole of 2017 at the Australian Grand Prix.
For the first time in 2017, the fastest car in Formula One was finally revealed as Hamilton clinched pole for the season-opener. His 62nd career pole comes with a new Albert Park lap record. As Vettel puts Ferrari on the front row for the first time since 2015, while Ricciardo put his Red Bull in the wall.
Vettel may have only set the then lap record in the morning session, but his new absolute Albert Park fastest lap was shattered by Hamilton who clinched pole from the German.
Pipping his adversary to the top spot as his new team-mate laid down the challenge. With just three-tenths of a second separating the front three.
Behind them came an expected Raikkonen and Verstappen, but Ricciardo’s qualifying finished without a fairytale ending. Just as Palmer found with his “awful” Renault.
When qualifying began and the first true test of pace engaged, McLaren was the team breaking the silence as the two cars rolled out of the pit lane. Their two cars soon became one, however, as Vandoorne swiftly returned to the pits as the teams’ woes began.
Vandoorne was issued back to the garage with the team noticing a fuel flow issue. Something they were unable to resolve before sending Stoffel back out. Ultimately to a poor result with “no power at all” seeing the Belgian only able to qualify in 18th place.
Behind Stoffel will line up Jolyon Palmer and Lance Stroll, meanwhile. With neither driver having a great opening session to their campaigns. Rookie Stroll also carried a five-place grid penalty into qualifying after the team were forced to change his gearbox after crashing in the final practice session.
For Palmer, he struggled with traction and handling throughout the session. With fellow Q1 casualty, Magnussen, also suffering as he locked up heavily for a rough trip through the gravel.
At the other end of the timesheet, it was Vettel who first went fastest as a hoard of comfortable lap times saw the German go fastest on a 1 minute 25.
With grip being far from at the optimal levels, Bottas then locked up at the penultimate corner. Yet the slight over-run failed to prevent first blood at Mercedes going to the new boy as he edged Hamilton by two-hundredths of a second.
Hamilton’s swift response, though, lowered the benchmark by a further three-tenths to create a one-second gap back to Vettel.
Raikkonen in the other Ferrari, meanwhile, was pushing hard on his second run. Taking the fastest middle sector as he came out on the ultrasoft tyres. Kimi was also running with his second Control Electronics and Energy Store as well following his final practice engine cutout.
Second runs were also underway for the men aiming to beat the drop. With one of which being Pascal Wehrlein’s Sauber substitute, Antonio Giovinazzi.
Brought in to replace Wehrlein as he continues to build strength following his winter break injuries, Giovinazzi was handed the drive on Friday night. And by Saturday evening, he was lapping faster than Ericsson already.
Marcus, though, felt his first run had been impeded. And with his second, demoted his new team-mate after the Italian threw his lap away following a mistake out of the penultimate corner.
Ericsson’s gains meant Giovinazzi was eliminated from qualifying. But his debut qualifying was still a very strong showing.
As Q2 started, dark clouds rolled in and the air temp dropped. Leading eyes to look up to the sky as the chance of rain increased.
With rain drops formulating across the city, Mercedes moved out as soon as possible with Bottas leading the line.
Bottas was soon leading the timesheet, too. As despite a faster first sector for Hamilton, Bottas came out on top by three-hundredths of a second. A narrow margin Ferrari could not split as Raikkonen and Vettel closed in.
Even setting a new personal best sector one and a purple second sector, Vettel could only move closer to his team-mate’s time. Actually going slower in the final part of the lap as he lifted off across the line.
Alonso probably can only wish he had the choice to lift off across the line. As the Spaniard reported he was getting no power when moving off the kerb at the final corner.
Ahead of Alonso and in the top 10 sat the un-retired Felipe Massa with the sole remaining Williams. But even in seventh place and only behind the top three teams, Massa’s best time was a sizable way off the Red Bull’s ahead.
Tight margins then followed Massa with Toro Rosso just behind. While Force India, Renault and Haas sat clustered ahead of their final runs.
In his debut qualifying for Force India, Ocon was pushing hard to secure a Q3. But after being unable to improve in the first sector, the gains he found across the lap failed to move him up the order.
Late lap gains were also being found by Sainz and Hulkenberg. But their gains counted for little when Grosjean and Kvyat improved to push the Hulk down to 11th.
Perez then came along to demote his former team-mate another place. But Perez was only able to put his Force India into 11th after he was blocked by Massa while on his flyer.
Without rain falling on track, the front-runners hit the roads early again. And as they made their way around their formation laps, the man at the back – Raikkonen – was reporting rain drops on his visor. The Ferrari pit wall replied back that it was merely drops in the wind, though, as rain fell elsewhere in the city.
As the first man across the line, the first lap time was Bottas’ responsibility. But his first sector was bettered by the following Vettel and Hamilton. Then again his sector time was the weakest in zone two.
Sector three may have been better for Bottas, as the Finn went quicker than the Ferrari. But already the pace was down and his time came home two-thousandths down on Sebastian.
Hamilton, meanwhile, was clinching provisional pole. But the biggest impact was being made by Ricciardo as he spun at Turn 14.
Ricciardo just lost the rear of his ‘Bull as he turned into the corner. Spinning the car around and quickly nipping through the gravel to hit the barrier backwards. Potentially ruining the gearbox and requiring a change like Stroll.
Once his Red Bull was clear and the track went green for the final time, the drivers returned to the track to complete their running.
Seeing Bottas improve in the first, set a new fastest sector two but find no gains in the final part of the lap as he bettered Hamilton’s provisional time.
Hamilton, meanwhile, was going even quicker. Setting a new fastest time in the first and final sectors to regain P1 by three-tenths of a second.
A window Vettel could slip into as he found marginal gains to clinch Ferrari’s first front row spot since the 2015 Singapore Grand Prix.
Raikkonen, too, improved on his previous lap but remained in fourth place to line up alongside his countryman at the start of the Australian Grand Prix.
Max Verstappen could only take fifth place for Red Bull. With the Dutchman starting on the third row of the grid with Romain Grosjean as the Haas driver by far bettered his new team-mate.
|5||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||1’23.485||1.297|
|8||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Toro Rosso||1’24.487||2.299|
|9||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso||1’24.512||2.324|
|10||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||no Q3 time|
|11||Sergio Perez||Force India||1’25.081||2.893|
|14||Esteban Ocon||Force India||1’25.568||3.38|
*Lance Stroll includes grid penalty for gearbox change