Saturday, 14 March 2015

Hamilton takes pole for Mercedes as they lock out the front row for the Australian Grand Prix

(Mercedes AMG PETRONAS F1 Team)

Mercedes AMG PETRONAS F1 Team’s Lewis Hamilton will start tomorrow’s Australian Grand Prix from pole position as the Silver Arrows lock out the front row. The double world champion set a fastest time of 1m 26.327s with Rosberg’s fastest just 6 tenths of a second slower at a 1m 26.921s . Speaking following the session Hamilton stated:

It’s been a great start to the weekend and, honestly, it doesn’t feel like such a long time since the last race! It’s been a huge effort from all the guys and girls at the factories to have this kind of performance from our car and I feel very blessed to have the opportunity to drive it. I’ve worked hard with the engineers yesterday and today to find a good balance. Then, in the session, I just tried to push hard and put the pieces together. It’s so much fun when it works right, because this is the competition that I live for. And I’m immensely grateful to everybody at Mercedes for the hard work that has gone into it so far. But there is still a lot to do tonight to study for the race tomorrow because it will be a huge challenge to try and fight for the win. We will be working as hard as we can to make sure we have a good race.’

Rosberg commented on his lap saying:

Lewis did a good job today, he drove like a champ. I also felt that I had the speed in the car but I didn't get together the perfect lap. In general I'm happy that the team again gave us a great car. It's fastest out there this year, too, so many thanks to the factories back home. But tomorrow I still can make it happen because it will be a long race. A lot can still happen and I will put on a great show. My long run pace on Friday was better than Lewis but he did quite a few set-up changes on his car, so there may be more to come from him.

Mercedes Executive Director (Business) Toto Wolff commented on the team’s performance saying:

It was a great day for the team and it’s clear now that we have a very quick car. But you always have to stay careful – there are no points awarded on Saturday so we need to keep our feet on the ground and do our job properly tonight. It was a mega Lewis day out there on track. Both laps in Q3 would have been enough for pole position and he totally deserved it. For Nico, it was a bit messy today in Q3. He lost the car on his first run and had to pit, then decided to do his second run earlier so he could have some safety margin. He had a slow first sector – but the final sector was the quickest of anybody. He just didn’t put the pieces together today but P2 is still a strong result. Looking to tomorrow, we will not be getting carried away. Sebastian looks strong and the Williams are very competitive, on the straights particularly. We have the pace in the car – but any mistakes from our side will cost us dearly. We will keep our heads down, prepare the best we can and see what Sunday brings.’

Mercedes Executive Director (Technical) Paddy Lowe concluded by saying:

It’s a great result for the team. The two laps from Lewis that were, in all honesty, much quicker than we had expected. And while it was a tricky session for Nico after the problem on his first run, he made a good recovery to lock out the front row. Overall, it hasn’t been an easy day running the cars. P3 proved much hotter than any other session of the weekend, with high track temperatures and the challenge of adapting to them. Then, in qualifying, we saw temperatures falling rapidly and a gusting breeze that was also frequently changing direction. That made it a real challenge for the drivers to put in clean laps, so credit to them both for a superb first qualifying result of the season and credit to the teams at Brackley, Brixworth and Stuttgart for what appears to be a great car.’

It was a fantastic session for the Williams Martini Racing Team as Felipe Massa ended the session as best of the rest behind the Mercedes pair and will start the race in third place after setting a time of 1m 27.718s and speaking afterwards the Brazilian stated:

Mercedes have been ahead all weekend so we knew that on pure pace we were fighting for the best of the rest. Qualifying P3 means that we have done a very good job in getting the most out of the car; especially as the Ferrari’s looked strong and were pushing us hard. It will be a tough battle tomorrow so we need to get the start right and have a good strategy to secure a podium and really start the season on a high note. 

It was a great session for the Scuderia Ferrari duo of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen as they will start the race from fourth and fifth place respectively following an extremely impressive display by the pair.

Valtteri Bottas qualified in 6th place but his participation in the race is in doubt and I’ll have more on this story coming up. Daniel Ricciardo will start the race in 7th place having had a challenging free practice three where the Australian came to a stop at the exit of the pit-lane. Speaking afterwards Ricciardo stated:

We made progress through the session which is promising, it was so good to feel the car for once and push it properly. I think seventh is where we are now and I’m happy we achieved that as the weekend hasn’t gone well until now and qualifying was the first time I used the soft tyre. The drivability has been tricky; we suffered a bit this time last year, but there are a few more issues this year which weren’t expected, but it’s how it is and we need to try and sort it out. I’m really happy with seventh as realistically that’s the best we could have done today. The progress we made through qualifying is real and hopefully we can carry that on for the race.’

Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz Jnr will start his first Formula One race from inside the top ten starting the race from 8th place just ahead of the Lotus F1 Team’s Romain Grosjean who will start the race from ninth place on the grid. Speaking afterwards the Frenchman stated:

I’m really happy to be back in Q3, and especially happy for our guys who have been working so hard over the last twelve months. We knew we had a good car from winter testing and today we are more or less where we thought we could be. It’s a tight field and if I had sneaked another two tenths from my lap, I would have been seventh on the grid. I think we can generally be very happy with what we’ve been doing. Our long runs have looked good so far so let’s see what we can do during the race tomorrow.

Pastor Maldonado rounded out the top ten with a time of 1m 29.480s having completed 20 laps. Speaking after the session the Venezuelan stated:

Getting into the top ten is a pretty good result for us and it’s positive to think that it could have been better as we did lose a little pace in the final qualifying session. Looking to the race it’s quite encouraging as we’re starting the season in a much better place than we were last year so it’s all looking very promising. Fingers crossed, we’re looking to have a good race tomorrow.

The Sauber F1 Team’s Felipe Nasr will start his first Formula One race in 11th place for the Swiss based outfit. The Brazilian completed a time of 1m 28.800s and speaking afterwards he stated:

As a team we can be happy that we nearly made it into Q3. MissingFP1 on Friday affected the performance of the car to a certain extent, and I also had less time getting to know the new track in Melbourne. All in all I am satisfied with the result and I am looking forward to the race. Tomorrow is an important day with it being my first ever Formula One race, and we are going to push for points.’
Following the session Sauber F1 Team Principal Monisha Keltenborn stated:
It was a strong first qualifying for the team. We are pleased to confirm the positive impression from the winter tests. It is also nice to see the car further in front, which gives the team additional motivation. We are going into the race with good prospects for a positive result.
Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen will start his debut Formula One race from 12th place on the grid ahead of the man he replaced at the Italian team Daniil Kvyat who will start the race from 13th place following a disappointing session for the Russian.
Speaking following the session Kvyat stated:
We are trying our best. It was hard with the few laps that we had and I was just trying to get up to speed; I didn’t have enough confidence to make a good lap. It’s not easy at the moment because we are trying to solve some problems, but we are making progress.’
Following the session Infiniti Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner stated:

After a difficult build up to qualifying, Daniel did a great job to make it through to Q3 and qualify seventh, which was the optimum today considering the issues we face this weekend. Unfortunately Daniil’s qualifying was compromised by a gearbox issue which limited his mileage, but he acquitted himself well, although he lost two tenths at Turn 15, which could have got him through to Q3. Hopefully from rows four and seven on the grid, we will be looking to make progress in tomorrow’s race.

The Sahara Force India Formula One Team duo of Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez will line up in 14th and 15th place respectively. Speaking about his session, Nico Hulkenberg stated:

We always want to be further up the grid, but being realistic I don’t think we had the performance today to challenge for Q3. However, it’s only the first qualifying session of the season, so it’s still very early days and we have a lot of development work ahead of us. I enjoyed the qualifying session today: it was good fun out there and I felt comfortable in the car, and as a team we squeezed everything we could from the session. For tomorrow, I’m optimistic that our race pace will be stronger than our qualifying pace, as was often the case last year, so I’m looking forward to the race.

Sergio ‘Checco’ Perez commented on his day saying:

It was quite a difficult qualifying session and the windy conditions seemed to have a big impact on our car. In terms of performance, I think we are where we predicted because we knew Q2 was achievable and we managed to get the maximum from the car. For tomorrow, we know this is a race where anything can happen: it’s unpredictable and sometimes you have to be patient. We need to see what the weather is like because the wind and track temperature will play a big part. Whatever happens, I will work hard to have a competitive race and target some points.

The Sauber F1 Team’s Marcus Ericsson will start the race from 16th place with a time of 1m 31.376s. Speaking following the session the Swedish driver stated:

It was a disappointing session for me being P16, and we cannot be satisfied with this result. I had quite a good feeling in the car yesterday, but today I have been struggling to feel confident, especially in the braking zones. We need to analise the data tonight to see what we have changed from yesterday, so that we can learn from that and fight back during the race. Tomorrow is a new day.

Jenson Button’s prediction of McLaren starting at the back of the grid was, unfortunately for the Woking based outfit right on the money as the 2009 world champion and team mate Kevin Magnussen will line up in 17th and 18th place respectively.

© Ben Johnston 2015

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