Mercedes 1-2 in Australian GP Qualifying

Event: Qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix
Date: Saturday, March 19
Location: Albert Park Circuit in Melbourne, Australia
Layout: 5.303-kilometer (3.295-mile), 16-turn circuit
Weather: Breezy and overcast with occasional bouts of sun
Temperature: 18 degrees Celsius (64 degrees Fahrenheit)
Track Record: 1:23.529 set by Sebastian Vettel in 2011 with Red Bull Racing
Pole Winner: Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes (1:23.837)

Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton led every practice and qualifying session on his way to pole position for the Australian GP in Albert park.

Hamilton's fast lap was 2.5s faster than last year.

Nico Rosberg will start 2nd with Sebastian Vettel in 3rd ahead of his Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen.

Vettel was a full 8/10ths of a second slower than Hamilton, which means Ferrari still has a big gap to catch Mercedes.

Max Verstappen rounded out the top-5 with Ferrari power as Toro Rosso embarrassed sister team Red Bull who are still stuck with Renault engines (badged Tag Heuer).

With 5-min to go in Q3 the Ferrari drivers got out of their cars and walked away, knowing they had no chance to catch the Mercedes'.

The new 'Musical Chairs' elimination qualifying format was a complete disaster with drivers getting out of their cars without even trying to go faster and fans in the grandstands looking at each other in utter confusion as to what was going on.

Even the Mercedes drivers got out of their cars with 2 minutes to go. In the last 4 minutes of Q3 there were no hot laps. Whoever came up with this new qualifying format needs to be fired.

With drivers eliminated before they completed their flying lap – something the teams didn't seem to realize was the rule – in Q1 and Q2, Q3 would turn into a shambles as the teams played tactic and simply sent their cars on just one lap at the beginning, then allowed the clock to countdown and eliminate drivers one-by-one.

Save for Nico Rosberg going out late on to improve on his fourth place to second place, barely any action would take place in the final 10mins of the session, with none at all after four minutes, so much so fans were leaving long before the checkered flag dropped.

Seven minutes after the start Pascal Wehrlein became the first driver to be eliminated under the new regulations. He was joined by Rio Haryanto, Esteban Gutierrez, Romain Grosjean – who was on a hot lap but it didn’t count as he was 20 seconds short of the line when the 90 seconds between eliminations counted down – Daniil Kvyat, Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson.

Q2 was slightly less frantic as only 15 drivers were vying for track position, which mean decent gaps and less fighting. As expected the Mercedes pairing of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg claimed the 1-2, a position they would hold through to the chequered flag while rivals fought not to be eliminated.

The first out in Q2 was Kevin Magnussen followed by his Renault team-mate Jolyon Palmer. They were joined on the sidelines by Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso, Valtteri Bottas, Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez.

QUOTES

Mercedes

Hamilton waves to the crowd
Hamilton waves to the crowd

Lewis Hamilton I have to take my hat off to the team. What they've done to raise the bar once more, for the third year in a row, really inspires and motivates me. I really enjoyed driving the car in qualifying today. We got the setup just right and they were some sexy laps! They felt so good – flowing nicely with no real mistakes. That's all you can hope for – to always improve – and that's what we've done, so I'm very happy. There's still a lot of work left to do tonight and especially tomorrow, though. There's a lot more studying for us drivers with the changes to the radio rules. We can't be told if the strategy is changing through the race, so we have to be able to anticipate what's happening if you end up in a different situation than expected. I'm excited. It's a new thing and I hope it adds to the spectacle. I highly doubt it… but we shall see.

Nico Rosberg We have to be careful, as it's very early days. But I have to say it's very impressive how the team has come out as the quickest here by a good margin for the third year in a row. It's amazing to see, as the risk when you're dominating is that you start to become complacent. It's a big risk too – one that we've seen before – but everyone seems to be pushing on through. Of course, I'm not happy with second place today. My last lap in Q3 was good – but Lewis just did a better job, so that's it. Still, there are a lot of opportunities starting from P2 so I'm looking forward to the race.

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport First, it's good to finally be back on track – especially with our cars on the front row after all the hard work over the winter. Congratulations to the whole team on a top job – and to Lewis on an impressive pole. Second, we need to look at the qualifying format again. I'm the first person to say that we shouldn't talk the sport down but when the evidence is there before your eyes, you cannot shut them and deny reality. The new format is pretty rubbish – much too complicated to follow and a damp squib at the end with nobody running. These were the downsides that we expected to see – and they outweigh the upsides, that much is clear now. We wanted to listen to the promoters who were calling for a change – but my personal opinion is that we have found the wrong solution and we need to think carefully about what we do next.

Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical) As I said before the weekend, qualifying here is the most important hour of the year. It's where you really see what kind of car you've got for the season and the first time you meet your competitors head on, on the limit, at maximum power and minimum weight. So, it's been a very tense build-up to this session as always – and a hugely satisfying conclusion to see that we have a quick car once again. Congratulations today go to everyone at Brackley, Brixworth and Stuttgart, who have been involved in this project over many months, for a tremendous achievement. Both drivers put in good laps today and the forecast is looking better for tomorrow, so we look forward to a good race.

Ferrari

Vettel ponders another year of inhaling Mercedes exhaust fumes
Vettel ponders another year of inhaling Mercedes exhaust fumes

Sebastian Vettel: "In comparison to the Mercedes drivers we are a bit further behind than we expected, but we are happy with 3rd and 4th, especially for me as it was a bit difficult to find the rhythm in Qualifying. I felt quite good with the car in P3, but then it took some time to get back, and only in Q3 it really started to happen. I had a very good lap, and in the end, because the gap was quite big, I felt that my first lap had been good enough. There really wasn't another half a second in there, so we called it off, and saved a set of tires, although surely we would have loved to be closer. As for the qualifying format, I don't understand why all the people are so surprised now. It was going to happen, there were plenty of engineers and other brains that, basically, had sort of predicted what would happen. It was crazy at the beginning with all the cars lining up at the end of the pitlane, and everybody trying to set a lap time to avoid the risk of being eliminated. And then it was very quiet, same in Q2 and equally in Q3. So I don't think that it is more exciting, it's definitely the wrong way to go. Nothing has changed from what we had said a few weeks ago, but apparently somebody liked it, otherwise we wouldn't have had this format…"

Kimi Raikkonen: "It was not the ideal qualifying, but not too bad either. The car feels pretty good, and even if the Mercedes are faster than us I don't think we should be too worried. I was struggling a bit with the front tires to get them working at the first three corners, but apart from that we had a very good package and it was getting better and better. Maybe for us it would have been better to have warmer conditions. The new qualifying format is obviously different, from a driver's point of view it's a slightly different feeling than it was before, but if you watch it on TV I think that there is a much bigger difference. I think today we did a good job as a team, this being the first time of the year. In Q3 we did have another set of tires available, but it wouldn't have changed a lot to go out, so we decided to keep it for the race. So far it's ok, it can always be better but we'll see what we can do tomorrow.

Toro Rosso

Max happy with 5th place start
Max happy with 5th place start

Max Verstappen "It was a good qualifying session, especially after FP3, where I was struggling a bit with the car. We managed to turn it around and to be P5 — a career best — here in Melbourne is a great achievement by the whole team! If I'm honest, I'm a bit surprised with the result — I thought Q3 was maybe possible, but to be here in P5 is definitely a better result than we expected. I think this new qualifying system is quite tricky because you only have one lap to perform, but I liked it. Over the winter the team did a great job and now we need to enjoy this moment and get ready for tomorrow's race. I'm definitely looking forward to it!"

Carlos Sainz "We can be happy with our first qualifying session of the season — a P5 and a P7 here in Australia is a great result for the team! I'm pleased with my starting position and even though in Q3 I wasn't able to repeat a strong lap like I did in Q2, a P7 is a good starting point for tomorrow's race. The car feels really good and the hard work we've done over the winter is starting to pay off. It was quite a hectic and tricky session for us, but we hope the fans enjoyed this new format. We've got good pace and our objective tomorrow will be to hopefully go forward and score as many points as possible. We need to aim for that top seven, and I'm certainly looking forward to that challenge, it will be a fun race!"

James Key (Technical Director) "There were a lot of unknowns going into today in many respects. Firstly, it was not until today that we were able to run in dry conditions, so there was much to learn for all teams. Secondly, a new qualifying format and finally and most difficult to predict, to know exactly where everyone was, because winter testing is so difficult to predict. I think we did the right thing in free practice by trying to get some race data early on, as many other teams did, because clearly we were missing a lot of information due to yesterday's weather conditions. This gave us some valuable data for tomorrow. The good news also is that the car seemed to be well balanced on the super-soft tires for qualifying during the FP3 runs, so we were quite encouraged by that. Although Max wasn't that satisfied with the balance of his car in this morning's FP3, Carlos was reasonably happy and did a good and competitive lap time. For qualifying, we didn't know how best to approach it, but we followed our plan and I have to say it worked pretty well. Both drivers did what we needed from them of their first timed lap in Q1. As a precaution, we sent Carlos out again but in the end we didn't need to. That meant he needed to survive in the first part of Q2 with a used set of tires, which he did well. Max was on new tires and the second run for both of them in Q2 put them through quite safely into Q3. With only eight cars being up there, it was great to see that we could achieve it with both of our cars. A P5 for Max is an excellent result, and a P7 is also great for Carlos, even though I feel a little sorry for him because his Q2 lap was extremely competitive and sadly he didn't quite get that lap time in Q3. I think the track was a bit slower but we know that we could've been on the third row today with both drivers, and I think Carlos deserved to be there. I'd also like to say thank you to the whole team for such a good job — it's a very well deserved result after an extremely busy winter!"

Williams

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]Rob Smedley, Head of Performance Engineering: We planned this qualifying much more extensively than we would have done with the old regulations. One of the messages we kept giving to the drivers, was there are a few simple rules of this qualifying that we need to get our head around and we managed to do that quite well. We made sensible choices throughout and ended up in a reasonable positon. It is certainly much more complicated than the previous qualifying system, and needs a lot more thinking. But as long as you get those few golden rules right, then you're alright. As for the performance of the car, it was a little bit unfortunate that Valtteri was unable to get through to Q3, but overall the drivers have done a good job. The car is a great baseline. We thought we'd be in that third position in winter testing, and that has more or less proved to be the case. It is very tight between us, Red Bull and Toro Rosso. Now, we need to get our head down and get a little more development, and that is all happening to get ourselves into a more solid third position. We can definitely race from here tomorrow. Valtteri is actually in a good position in P11, because he has a free choice of tires, so that strategy is wide open for him. Felipe is further up the grid, but having to start on his Q2 supersoft tires. We did a bit of homework on the race strategy and ticked off a few boxes we needed to understand during FP3, so we are in a reasonably good shape going into the race and hopefully we can come out with some good points.

Felipe Massa: It was a good qualifying. I managed to qualify the best I could, but unfortunately lost out on fifth place by a very small gap. That is the only negative point. I did some good laps and the car behaves well, so I am happy. It is tricky, and not easy, going through the session knowing the countdown is on every few minutes. Fortunately, I didn't have any problems on my laps, but if you go out in traffic and you have any problems, it could be a lot closer that it was today.

Valtteri Bottas: It was a disappointing session. I was struggling with grip today, so we need to have a look to see if we got everything out of the tires, the pressure and temperatures. I was hoping to get to Q3, but tomorrow is a new day and from 11th it is still possible to have a good race.

Red Bull

Ricciardo
Ricciardo

Daniel Ricciardo "To make it into Q3 is good, we expected to more or less be in the top eight. Another tenth would have probably given us a couple of more positions, but that's always the way. As for the new qualifying system, Q1 and Q2 seemed okay, the clock ticking down added a bit more pressure and it might have been a bit more exciting for the fans, but Q3 didn't seem to work as well, it was a bit weird to have the session still going and all the drivers out of their cars."

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]Daniil Kvyat "Of course it's frustrating to be P18 but we will learn from what we have done today. My first lap was compromised by traffic so I had to give it up, and on the second push lap the tires lost a lot of performance so it wasn't enough. It's a new system and someone had to get it wrong and today it was us but we have plenty of things to analyze from our short life in Q1. I will do my best to go through the field tomorrow, definitely. It's not going to be enjoyable to start from P18 but it's a long race and we have to try and squeeze everything out of it and bring some points home."

Christian Horner: "For me, this new qualifying system did not work and really we should apologize to the fans. We have not put on a show for them at all today which is a shame, especially for the first race of the season. It's not good for qualifying to be done with five minutes to go, drivers and cars need to be out on track fighting for pole up until the last second. We should accept that we tried it, it didn't work and the important thing is we learn from it and address it quickly. Qualifying needs to build up to a crescendo, not what we saw here today."

Sauber

Marcus Ericsson "It was a decent qualifying. The driving felt good having a well-balanced car. The team did a good job despite the limited running yesterday. We expected that it would be very tight in Q1. We were close to Q2, but it was not close enough. Tomorrow we do our best to fight for points."

Felipe Nasr (car number 12):
"It was a tricky qualifying for us. The whole grid is competitive, and we know we still have a lot of work to do from our side. For the race I am confident we can move up some positions. It is a pity that I went out with a new set of supersoft tires and could not have another flying lap as I ran out of time, but this is part of the new qualifying regime."

Haas

Grosjean
Grosjean

Romain Grosjean "I was on a good lap and then suddenly I'm out. I don't even get a chance to go to the end of the lap. That's annoying because the car was good, our baseline is good, and in terms of performance, we were clearly able to go through. We just missed a bit of speed on the turnaround in the garage, so we were massively out of position. This is one of those races where it's tricky and you need to finish. That's our first call for tomorrow though. That's what Gene (Haas, chairman) wants. From there, everything is possible. It's a long race and we have new rules with the radio ban, so we just have to try to use the experience."

Esteban Gutierrez "It was a little frustrating not to see the lap time we achieved reflected in the results. However, we know the potential is there. Overall, I think we've had a very tricky weekend, but with more time we'll become more efficient as a team. The good thing is we know the lap time was good enough to be further up the grid. Looking ahead, we need to be positive, to keep working hard and moving forward."

Guenther Steiner "I think I've never been happy and unhappy at the same time. Today showed the potential of the car, but we were unable to use it because when we went out we made a few mistakes. Our first lap didn't stick, and when we went out again we missed out by a few seconds. However, now we know where everyone is, so tomorrow in the race we'll try to do the best we can to get up there. It was a challenging weekend to get here, but we didn't do anything completely wrong, which is a success for us as a new team. Now we look forward to the race, and I can't wait."

Force India

Sergio Perez "I am happy about today's result. The team did a great job and I think it's a very positive way to begin the season. Starting ninth gives us many more options in terms of the strategy because we can choose the tires for our first stint. This could be one of the key aspects of the race so it's good to be in this position.

"As for the new qualifying system, we need to see how the fans react. I think it's a system that favors the big teams and puts more pressure on the middle of the grid because any mistake during your lap means you will almost certainly be eliminated. You don't have any opportunity to go out again and improve your time, which adds a lot of pressure – much more on us than on bigger teams. It's not just pressure for the drivers, it is for everyone in the team, also the mechanics and engineers – you're in a race against the clock just for the opportunity to get another lap in.

"We still have question marks about how the race will unfold, but I think pretty much everyone on the grid is in the same position because of the limited running in the dry. It will be an interesting Sunday and we have the potential to score good points."

Nico Hulkenberg "The new qualifying format didn't really change my approach, although you are certainly under more pressure to deliver a good first run to avoid being at risk of dropping out early. So your first runs in Q1 and Q2 are probably the most important of the day.

"In terms of the result, I'm pretty happy with tenth and it's more or less in the ballpark of what we felt we could achieve today. Under last year's rules it would have taken us through to Q3, but with the new format it's actually a really good place to start because it opens up some nice strategy options with the free tire choice for the start of the race.

"There are still a few unknowns for tomorrow, especially in terms of race pace because nobody was able to do their usual long run programs yesterday. Also, the first race always has the potential to be unpredictable and eventful. I expect a tough race because the grid is very tight, but I want to come away with some big points."

Robert Fernley, Deputy Team Principal "I think the whole team can be satisfied to see our cars lining up on the fifth row of the grid for the first race of the season. It has been quite an unusual and disjointed weekend in the lead up to qualifying, so to come through that and qualify inside the top ten is a good achievement. The new qualifying system didn't really impact on our approach to the session and probably didn't change too much in the end. Going into the session we knew that ninth and tenth would represent a good result, especially given the strategic options it opens up. The task now is to convert today's performance into solid points tomorrow afternoon."

Results

Pos No. Driver Team Q1 Time Laps Q2 Time Laps Q3 Time Laps
1 44 L. HAMILTON Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team 1:25.351 5 1:24.605 3 1:23.837 6
2 6 N. ROSBERG Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team 1:26.934 4 1:24.796 3 1:24.197 6
3 5 S. VETTEL Scuderia Ferrari 1:26.945 5 1:25.257 6 1:24.675 3
4 7 K. RAIKKONEN Scuderia Ferrari 1:26.579 4 1:25.615 6 1:25.033 3
5 33 M. VERSTAPPEN Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:26.934 3 1:25.615 6 1:25.434 3
6 19 F. MASSA Williams Martini Racing 1:25.918 6 1:25.644 3 1:25.458 3
7 55 C. SAINZ Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:27.057 5 1:25.384 6 1:25.582 3
8 3 D. RICCIARDO Red Bull Racing 1:26.945 6 1:25.599 6 1:25.589 3
9 11 S. PEREZ Sahara Force India F1 Team 1:26.607 6 1:25.753 6
10 27 N. HULKENBERG Sahara Force India F1 Team 1:26.550 8 1:25.865 6
11 77 V. BOTTAS Williams Martini Racing 1:27.135 3 1:25.961 6
12 14 F. ALONSO McLaren Honda 1:26.537 6 1:26.125 3
13 22 J. BUTTON McLaren Honda 1:26.740 6 1:26.304 3
14 30 J. PALMER Renault Sport F1 Team 1:27.241 9 1:27.601 3
15 20 K. MAGNUSSEN Renault Sport F1 Team 1:27.297 8 1:27.742 3
16 9 M. ERICSSON Sauber F1 Team 1:27.435 9
17 12 F. NASR Sauber F1 Team 1:27.958 7
18 26 D. KVYAT Red Bull Racing 1:28.006 5
19 8 R. GROSJEAN Haas F1 Team 1:28.322 6
20 21 E. GUTIERREZ Haas F1 Team 1:29.606 6
21 88 R. HARYANTO Manor Racing MRT 1:29.627 3
22 94 P. WEHRLEIN Manor Racing MRT 1:29.642 3

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