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GP Week : Issue 216
QUALIFYING development squad as Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz both impressed, Ricciardo's recovery the best the downbeat squad could have hoped for. Their woes were nothing like those at McLaren. Pre-season was not kind to the Woking squad but qualifying showed the mountain the McLaren Honda partnership has to climb. Reliability remains a question mark, so much so that Honda wound the wick down on the engine, consigning both Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen to the final row of the grid. Still, it could be worse, just ask Manor, which flew 28 tonnes of equipment and 40 staff to Melbourne only to sit in the garage. The team had continued to work on its cars, despite not having practised in the lead up to qualifying, right up to the point parc ferme rules dictated work stop. "To miss out on qualifying is of course very disappointing," confessed team principal John Booth. "This is a team that has met and overcome many difficulties, both in the past few months and at other stages of our racing history. There are very good things ahead for us and that is where our focus lies." There were promising signs at Force India after a truncated pre-season. It wasn't until the final winter test that the squad ran its 2015 car so its qualifying performance is an encouraging start even if the squad failed to set the world alight. The biggest improvement over last year was Lotus. In 2014 Pastor Maldonado failed to set a time while Romain Grosjean was easily the slowest qualifier. Fast forward 12 months and both drivers made the top 10, the duo on pace with Toro Rosso. "We knew we had a good car from winter testing and today we are more or less where we thought we could be," Grosjean enthused. "It's a tight field and if I had sneaked another two-tenths from my lap, I would have been seventh on the grid." Narrowly missing out on the top 10 was Sauber's Felipe Nasr. Having skipped the opening practice session for legal reasons it was a solid recovery for the Swiss team. Marcus Ericsson fared less well with just 16th place to find himself eliminated from the first phase of the session along with the McLaren's, but for Nasr it was an eyebrow raising performance given he'd never driven the circuit before. "We can be happy that we nearly made it into Q3," said the Brazilian. "Missing FP1 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." 2015 FORMULA 1TM ROLEX AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX 58 LAPS ROUND 1/20 << Last Race – Abu Dhabi November 23 2014 Last Race – Malaysia >> Two Weeks’ Time 1 2015 FORMULA 1TM ROLEX AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX QUALIFYING CLASSIFICATION 1 – For the 9th race in a row, Mercedes AMG lock out the front row, establishing a new Formula 1 record streak and surpassing the 8 in row of Mclaren in 1989 and Williams in 1993. It is also the team’s 12th consecutive pole, yet only halfway to the all-time record of 24, again by Williams from the 1992 French to 1993 Japanese GP. More importantly, Mercedes are 1.61% quicker than any other team. They were never more than 1.26% quicker than the field throughout last year, and they’ve almost doubled their advantage from Melbourne 2014 (0.85%). 2 – Lewis Hamilton is on pole for the 4th time at Albert Park, a new record for any driver on this circuit (Ayrton Senna was on pole in Australia 6 times, all in Adelaide). Hamilton has converted his last 6 poles into race victories, but the last time he didn’t win when starting from pole was here last season. Nico Rosberg is on the front row for the 12th consecutive race, but neither Mercedes was in the top-10 in the speed trap, something that did not happen in any qualifying session in 2014. 3 – Williams’ Felipe Massa is a distant 3rd, but it is his best-ever start in Melbourne in 13 visits here – yet Williams are further away from Mercedes in terms of percentage than in any qualification last season other than Monaco! Massa edged Sebastian Vettel into 4th, as Vettel matched Ferrari’s best qualifying performance from 2014. Also, Kimi Raikkonen matched his best start from last year in 5th (set in Bahrain). As well as having a bad back, Valtteri Bottas had his worst qualifying since Singapore 6 races ago in 6th place. 4 – Daniel Ricciardo has only started 7th on 3 occasions in his career, all with Toro Rosso – and never finished higher than that in the race. Speaking of Toro Rosso, Carlos Sainz in 8th matched the debut performance of Daniil Kvyat in this car last season, and missed outpacing the senior team by just 0.181s. Lotus had a massive morale boost by getting both cars in Q3 for the first time since Kimi Raikkonen left the team after the 2013 Abu Dhabi GP. In the case of Pastor Maldonado, he had not reached Q3 since the 2012 Brazilian GP. 5 – Sauber were pointless in 2014 and only reached Q3 once all year (Austin), so 11th by Felipe Nasr is a good result, while Max Verstappen might be reminded by Jos Verstappen that his maiden podium finish at the 1994 Hungarian GP came from 12th on the grid. Daniil Kvyat finds himself outqualified by the team he left at the end of last season. Force India had at least 1 car in the top-13 at every 2014 race, so they’re off to a bad start, although the teammates were separated by just 0.001s. 6 – Marcus Ericsson is still yet to progress beyond Q1 in his F1 career, while Mclaren found themselves knocked out in Q1 for only the 2nd time since this format was adopted in 2006. It previously happened to Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen in the wet session at the 2009 Brazilian GP. Discounting penalties, wet weather and so forth, the last time Mclaren were this uncompetitive was arguably at the 1983 Long Beach GP, when John Watson and Niki Lauda qualified 22nd and 23rd. They then finished 1-2 in the race, setting a record for the lowest winning grid position that stands to this day. Meanwhile, Manor Marussia suffer a double non-qualification, just as HRT did at this event in 2011 and 2012. 17 GPWEEK.com // 17 GPWEEK.com // F1 >>> AUSTRALIA PARTNERS: