Another year, another marvelous performance by Mercedes AMG Petronas. Lewis Hamilton came out on top in the internal fight with Nico Rosberg, while the Ferrari cars once again were no match for the Silver Arrows in single lap pace. Rosberg had a scruffy qualifying running wide once in Q1 and once in Q3.
Melbourne witnessed the debut of the new qualifying format. The elimination scheme nearly pushed Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel out merely eight minutes into the first qualifying session. Both managed to put good enough laps in the last possible minute, so Pascal Wehrlein became the first eliminated. Wehrlein’s Manor teammate Rio Haryato came out 21st and second eliminated. Haryato, however, has a three-stop grid penalty, so he will start after the German.
Unsurprisingly, Manor’s duo was joined by the Haas and Sauber drivers in the group that lost out on Q2 running. The strange event was that Daniil Kvyat also did not make it into Q2. The Red Bulls certainly had the pace to get easily out of the first qualifying session, so the Russian suffered from a horrible strategic miscalculation and traffic on track.
Kvyat’s teammate Daniel Ricciardo, in the mean time, had no problems getting into Q3. The drivers that were eliminated in Q2 were: Kevin Magnussen, Jolyon Palmer, Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso, Valtteri Bottas, Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez (in this order). Bottas was the odd one out as the expectations from Williams are higher. The fans also expect from Scuderia Ferrari to be finally pushing Mercedes hard in qualifying. Nothing of the sort happened in Melbourne when as soon as the Silver Arrows went into qualifying mode on their power units, the Ferraris were more than half-a-second behind.
The final qualifying session was extremely anti-climatic. Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton were the only drivers to attempt a second run in Q3. The drop order was Daniel Ricciardo, Carlos Sainz, Felipe Massa, Max Verstappen, Kimi Raikkonen, Sebastian Vettel, Nico Rosberg. All drivers were out of the cars 3 minutes before the clock ran out after the Mercs completed there second set of timed laps. Rosberg’s final attempt was better than his first in Q3 but not good enough to push Hamilton.
Scuderia Rosso were the unsung heroes of the Australian GP qualifying. Both STR drivers easily made it high into Q3, beating the senior Red Bull team without breaking a sweat. Now, to top the good weekend, they can dream of making it on the podium if the Ferrari cars run into problems (it was not exactly smooth sailing for Kimi Raikkonen twelve months ago).
Two of the positions on the podium are already settled. The Silver Arrows are still way ahead in terms of pace. Rosberg will need to improve a lot on his Saturday performance to challenge Hamilton for the win.
|5||33||MAX VERSTAPPEN||TORO ROSSO||1:25.434||12|
|7||55||CARLOS SAINZ||TORO ROSSO||1:25.582||14|
|8||3||DANIEL RICCIARDO||RED BULL RACING||1:25.589||15|
|9||11||SERGIO PEREZ||FORCE INDIA||1:25.753||12|
|10||27||NICO HULKENBERG||FORCE INDIA||1:25.865||14|
|18||26||DANIIL KVYAT||RED BULL RACING||1:28.006||5|
Source: Formula 1 official website