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GP Week : Issue 197
A last-gasp lap on full wets snatched pole for Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes (equaling Nigel Mansell’s total of 32), but it was the man, and the car, next to him on the grid which made the headlines in Australia. After all the pre-season problems and dire predictions, a Red Bull would start the Australian Grand Prix from the front row. But not that of world champion Sebastian Vettel. He would start 12th – yes 12th – with apparent ‘software’ and “driveability” issues. No, RB debutant Daniel Ricciardo it was who set the locals alight with a scintillating run through all three qualifying sessions. After all the anticipation, the first rain in Melbourne for over three months chose this late Saturday afternoon to appear, so there would be no real assessment of the new ‘extra set of tyres’ scenario in Q3, or even the ultimate pecking order in the dry. It was, though, a typically riveting wet qualifying session. The 18-minute Q1 session was, in fact, dry – the first drops came with a bit over five minutes to go. At this point, the other new star had emerged – McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen bringing a broad smile to Ron Dennis’ face as he sat in second spot, beaten only by Riccciardo. The Mercedes duo were running conser vatively at this point – indeed Massa (Williams) and Alonso (Ferrari) were next. At the other end of the scale, a miserable weekend continued for Lotus. Maldonado didn’t even register a time, and a frustrated Romain Grosjean, six seconds off the lead pace, joined the two Marussias, Gutierrez (Sauber) and Ericsson (Caterham) at the bottom of the grid. Q2 provided the first real shocks. While Rosberg, Ricciardo, Hamilton and, yes, Magnussen duked it out at the top of the time sheets, others were struggling: read Vettel, Raikkonen, Button. All three would miss the Q3 cut, along with Sutil, Kobayashi (who’d done well to push the Caterham into Q2) and Perez. With a couple of minutes to go, Kimi created a double-yellow by sliding his Ferrari into the wall at Turn 7 (apparently on a slow-down lap!). In-car showed Vettel fighting the Red Bull hard, seemingly unaffected by the Raikkonen yellows, but as he crossed the line the time simply wasn’t there. “You’re P12,” engineer Rocky informed. “Yeah .... I saw that,” came the reply. The track was still clearly full-wet as the 12-minute Q3 started, although Alonso was one to go for Intermediates – perhaps sensing that the rain would ease, which it did. On a slowly-drying surface, it came down to the last lap. All the key contenders were on Inters at this point, with one exception. Lewis chose to stick with wets and it paid off – just. Ricciardo was second-last over the line and the stands erupted as Car 3 eclipsed Rosberg by five- hundredths to grab what appeared to be pole. Seconds later, the last car, Hamilton, crossed three- tenths faster. This was the first time anyone had driven the new generation cars in the wet. As such, it provided a brilliant insight into the ability of those involved to adapt in no time at all. Had anyone adjusted their cars for the wet, gambling on rumoured rain for Sunday? Time would tell. Behind this top three there was a small gap, over a second in fact, to the brilliant young debutant at McLaren, Alonso, Vergne, Hulkenberg, then another significant gap to Kvyat – how’s that for a debut in F1 qualifying! – Massa and Bottas. QUALIFYING 1 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:44.231 2 Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) 1:44.548 3 Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 1:44.595 4 Kevin Magnussen (McLaren) 1:45.745 5 Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) 1:45.819 6 Jean-Eric Vergne (Toro Rosso) 1:45.864 7 Nico Hulkenberg (Force India) 1:46.030 8 Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso) 1:47.368 9 Felipe Massa (Williams) 1:48.079 10 Jenson Button (McLaren) 1:44.437 11 Kimi Räikkönen (Ferrari) 1:44.494 12 Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 1:44.668 13 Adrian Sutil (Sauber) 1:45.655 14 Kamui Kobayashi (Caterham) 1:45.867 15 Valtteri Bottas (Williams) 1:48.147 (Q3)* 16 Sergio Perez (Force India) 1:47.293 17 Max Chilton (Marussia) 1:34.293 18 Jules Bianchi (Marussia) 1:34.794 19 Marcus Ericsson (Caterham) 1:35.157 20 Romain Grosjean (Lotus) 1:36.993 21 Pastor Maldonado (Lotus) No time 22 Esteban Gutierrez (Sauber) 1:35.117* * – five-pace gearbox change penalty THE gRID 30 GPWEEK.com // 30 GPWEEK.com // F1 >>> AUSTRALIA PARTNERS: