After yesterday’s balmy weather, the winds howled and the heavens opened at Albert Park this afternoon. Only the opening minutes of Q1 remained dry, and then the rains fell, quickly calling for a switch from Options (Q1), to Inters (Q2), and, finally, to Full Wets (Q3).
Both Kevin (2nd) and Jenson (4th) quickly progressed through Q1. In Q2, however, Jenson narrowly missed making the top 10 after a spinning Kimi Raikkonen brought out the yellow flags at Turn Three, ruining his opportunity to set a faster lap when the session was at its fastest. He was unfortunate to be relegated to 11th in the dying moments of the session. However, a five-place gearbox penalty for Williams driver Valtteri Bottas means that Jenson will start 10th tomorrow.
Despite having no experience of Albert Park in the wet, Kevin brilliantly set a storming time on his final run in Q2, his 1m43.247s best placing him a square fifth. Into Q3, when the rains became even heavier, he switched to Pirelli’s Full Wet tyre, setting a best time of 1m45.745s to line up fourth for his first-ever grand prix tomorrow.
“I’m really happy. Those were difficult conditions, especially as I’ve never driven this track in the wet – it was quite tricky to get the lines and the braking points right. It was much trickier than anything I’ve ever done!
“But I don’t think I could have asked for any more today. I made a mistake and went off on my last lap, so I might have been able to go quicker, but I’m still happy. The car was really good, and the team did a fantastic job of preparing me for this. I’m proud of myself, but also proud of the whole team for doing such a massively good job of preparing me over the winter. I always knew what was going on, and I knew the procedures, so it’s clear that they taught me really well.
“The race is tomorrow, and so are the points – so we need a good Sunday. I’ll try to enjoy tomorrow and do the best I can – getting onto the podium won’t be easy, especially if it’s dry. But if it’s wet, anything could happen – so I guess a wet grand prix is what I’ll be hoping for.”
Jenson Button (will start 10th due to 10th-placed Valtteri Bottas’s five-place gearbox penalty):
“The rain this afternoon was initially good for me – I got the tyres in pretty good shape for my lap, and I was pleased with my first run in Q2. The car felt pretty good, too – I was quickest when I did my lap, and I was in the top 10 until the end. But, unfortunately, I didn’t get my final run on new tyres in because I was caught out by the yellow flags in Turn Three.
“In the wet conditions, I think we had a very good chance of qualifying closer to the front, because our car isn’t quite so quick in the dry. Not getting into the top 10 was sheer bad luck – but, hopefully, I won’t be so unlucky tomorrow. I love this place, the car is working well, and, but for the yellow flags, we could have qualified much better than we did.
“Hopefully we’ll be quick in the race – there’s one team that’s clear of the rest, but I think we can fight the others.”
Eric Boullier, Racing Director, McLaren Mercedes:
“A rookie’s first ever qualifying session is always a daunting occasion for him, all the more so when rain has made the track surface both tricky and treacherous. Nonetheless, Kevin coped brilliantly with exactly those conditions, combining speed with circumspection to end up a sensational P4.
“Kimi’s ‘off’ was poorly timed as far as Jenson was concerned, for it prevented him from being able to put in his final quick lap. As a result he narrowly failed to make it through to Q3.
“However, with the weather expected to be equally changeable tomorrow, he’ll be aiming to bring all his skill and experience to bear in an effort to score as many points as possible.
“As for Kevin, he’s well placed to drive a memorable first grand prix tomorrow.
Subbed by AJN.