Melbourne Qualifying: Hamilton takes pole as Ricciardo stars in wet thriller

Lewis Hamilton will start the Australian Grand Prix from pole

Lewis Hamilton will start the Australian Grand Prix from pole

The 2014 Formula 1 World Championship got off to a wet but thrilling start with Lewis Hamilton stealing pole position for the Australian Grand Prix, from Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg, on his final flying lap of Qualifying with Red Bull new boy Daniel Ricciardo stealing the show with the second best time, in a session which saw some big reputations taking some mighty knocks and the young guns making their marks early.

As if Formula 1′s brand new turbo era did not have enough challenges, mother nature decided to add some spice to proceedings as rain, which had loomed since daybreak over Albert Park, finally bucketed down just before Q2,setting the stage for a dramatic half hour of action.

As expected Hamilton and Rosberg had the firepower to feature constantly at the sharp end of proceedings, while Ricciardo surprised all with a solid Qualifying where he too was a factor throughout the session and very nearly nicked pole on his debut for Red Bull. It wasn’t to be, but he certainly outshone teammate Sebastian Vettel.

Lewis Hamilton after qualifying

Lewis Hamilton after qualifying

In fact the world champion was out of sorts all of Saturday, after a reasonably positive start on Friday. As a result he failed to make it beyond Q2 – his time was only good enough for 13th.

He was not the only one to suffer in Q2 as Kimi Raikkonen, who was struggling, relative to Ferrari teammate Fernando Alonso, slithered into the wall after getting on the power too early. His session ended on the spot with him 12th on the timing screens.

Jenson Button looked good in Q1, but could not carry the pace over to Q2 and the yellow flag situation did not help his cause, 11th was the best he could do, while his rookie teammate Kevin Magnussen gave a superb account of himself to eventually set the fourth best time, and will start on the second row of the grid in his grand prix debut.

Top three in parc ferme (L to R) third placed Nico Rosberg, pole winner Lewis Hamilton and second placed Daniel Ricciardo

Top three in parc ferme (L to R) third placed Nico Rosberg, pole winner Lewis Hamilton and second placed Daniel Ricciardo

But in the end the day belonged to Hamilton who has looked feisty and up for it since he set foot in Melbourne. With Rosberg fastest as Hamilton started his final lap the pressure was on and the 2008 F1 World Champion rose to the occasion to post the fastest lap with Pirelli Wet tyres strapped on.

He said afterwards, “It was difficult to know where the turnover point was for Intermediates and Full Wets. Do you take a risk or not? We decided not to. Ricciardo did a good job on the Intermediate tyres, so it was a close call between the two tyres. The conditions made it extremely difficult. I hope the weather is better tomorrow, for the fans, but also for us.”

“The new cars are harder to drive in the wet and it’s the first time for me driving in these conditions – as I’m sure it is for a lot of other drivers. But to be up here is a great showing for the team. It’s great for Ricciardo, too, in his first grand prix for Red Bull.”

Kimi Raikkonen's session ended in the wall

Kimi Raikkonen’s session ended in the wall

Ricciardo did his bit for ticket sales in the build-up to his home race, then set about delivering a star performance in front of the partisan home crowd who cheered his every move on track.

With the conditions on the cusp of Full Wets and Intermediate tyres, the team opted for the latter and Ricciardo set about attacking the pace setting Mercedes duo, splitting them as he ensured a front row start on his debut for the world champion team.

A beaming Ricciardo said, “I’m so happy for me to be up here and for the team to have a car on the front row. It wasn’t looking like this a few weeks ago so I’m pretty pleased right now. “It was exciting, definitely the weather added to the mix. The whole session went well. Not everyone was out with the Options in the beginning, Q1 looked like it was going OK for us.

Daniel Ricciardo will start his home grand prix from second on the grid

Daniel Ricciardo will start his home grand prix from second on the grid

“When the rain fell, it was the first time we have all driven on the limit in wet conditions. It was tricky but at the same time a lot of fun, It’s nice to be always up there, setting times which put us in the battle for pole. It’s nice for me and also for the team.”

Rosberg came close, but not close enough, as he will start the race from behind his teammate on the grid but showed throughout the weekend thus far that he too has race winning potential, helped as isHamilton by a very solid piece of kit in the W05 which looks to be the class of the bunch as the season kicks off.

The German summed up his afternoon, “I’m not sure what the others were doing – we didn’t get everything right, but we didn’t do much wrong, but all in all it was a good Qualifying session. I’m pleased with third – we could do better, but at least with that a good race is possible.

Nico Rosberg was third fastest

Nico Rosberg was third fastest

“It will be a different story tomorrow depending on the weather. There is a small chance of rain but it’s more likely to be dry and totally different. Melbourne is the most difficult track for fuel consumption so it will be difficult to save fuel during the race. It will be a big challenge.”

As mentioned Magnussen delivered for those who had faith in promoting him to the McLaren race seat, and his heroics were well and truly appreciated by team boss Ron Dennis who watched with relish from the pit garage. He will start from the second row.

For Ferrari it was an afternoon of mixed fortunes and perhaps disappointment that the F14T is not up there with the pace setters at this early stage. Alonso started Q3 with Intermediates, which was too early for them to be effective and then came in for Full Wets, going out again but perhaps at a time when the inters would have been more effective, as in the case of Ricciardo. Nevertheless the Spaniard will start from fifth on the grid.

Kevin Magnussen impressed in his F1 qualifying debut

Kevin Magnussen impressed in his F1 qualifying debut

For a team  suffering the woes of the Renault clan, Toro Rosso delivered a class performance in Qualifying, with Jean-Eric Vergne showing his prowess in adverse conditions by setting the sixth fastest time, and teenage rookie Daniil Kvyat giving an impressive showing in his Qualifying debut. He will start from eighth on the grid, after a gutsy performance which saw him clip the wall late on in Q3 – but full marks for effort and commitment.

Williams can surely be forgiven for being disappointed with ninth and tenth for Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas respectively, as they have been tipped as ‘best-of-the-rest’ behind the Silver Arrows. But on the day, resplendent in their iconic Martini Racing livery, they simply did not have the muscle when it mattered. Bottas will move five places down the grid thanks to an engine change yesterday.

The penalty promotes the illustrious trio of Button, Raikkonen and Vettel up a place each on the grid, all with their teammates substantially further up the grid…

Pastor Maldonado struggled in the Lotus

Pastor Maldonado struggled in the Lotus

Down the wrong end of the timing screens, it was a disastrous day for Lotus, last year’s winning team totally unprepared for the season-opener with their increasingly dubious E22 which is proving to be virtually undriveable.

Romain Grosjean was slowest of all, but thankfully within the 107% rule. Pastor Maldonado failed to set a timed lap and his participation in the race will be at the mercy of the race stewards.

Grosjean summed up his frustration, “We had a lot of problems today and every time we fixed one, another one came along! The guys are working very hard and it’s a tough situation for everyone. We just have to learn everything we can every time we are out in the car on the track.

“Yes it’s frustrating, but I’m the one who has the easiest life as I’m not working all night on the car. The whole team is here to win, so when it doesn’t go to plan it’s not great. It could still be made into a monster of a car if we all pull together as a team. We’ve been through some tough times in the past so we’ll work our way out of it.”

At the sharp end the scene is set for a cracking opening race to the season, with Mercedes set to start as favourites as predicted since Bahrain, but Red Bull have shown signs of being able to match them on pace and now it remains to be seen if Renault have made any positive strides in the reliability department. Whatever the case an intriguing race is on the cards…make that an intriguing season!

Subbed by AJN.

Australian Grand Prix, Qualifying – Saturday, 15 March 2014

Pos No Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3 Laps
1 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:31.699 1:42.890 1:44.231 22
2 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:30.775 1:42.295 1:44.548 20
3 6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:32.564 1:42.264 1:44.595 21
4 20 Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Mercedes 1:30.949 1:43.247 1:45.745 19
5 14 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:31.388 1:42.805 1:45.819 21
6 25 Jean-Eric Vergne STR-Renault 1:33.488 1:43.849 1:45.864 21
7 27 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1:33.893 1:43.658 1:46.030 20
8 26 Daniil Kvyat STR-Renault 1:33.777 1:44.331 1:47.368 20
9 19 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1:31.228 1:44.242 1:48.079 21
10 77 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 1:31.601 1:43.852 1:48.147 19
11 22 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:31.396 1:44.437 13
12 7 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:32.439 1:44.494 13
13 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:31.931 1:44.668 13
14 99 Adrian Sutil Sauber-Ferrari 1:33.673 1:45.655 12
15 10 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham-Renault 1:34.274 1:45.867 13
16 11 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1:34.141 1:47.293 13
17 4 Max Chilton Marussia-Ferrari 1:34.293 5
18 17 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Ferrari 1:34.794 5
19 21 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1:35.117 7
20 9 Marcus Ericsson Caterham-Renault 1:35.157 5
21 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:36.993 6
22 13 Pastor Maldonado Lotus-Renault
Q1 107% Time 1:37.129
  • karlich

    Thriller is an understatement. That was ****ing amazing and do excuse my language, I can’t contain myself :) Well done Red Bull, well done Ricciardo!

  • Tamburello1994

    Fights on !!

  • http://darrenstuart.com ninjamonk

    That was a great quali, your report that button couldn’t carry the pace over is not correct. He was caught out by the Yellow flag on his hot lap as was vettel so we will never know.

  • Amos James

    Well, vettel was still well off making the top ten. The yellow flag didn’t make that much difference.

  • Amos James

    Agreed. Kimi never troubled alonso, tho. There were a lot of people in here that were sure kimi would be rolling alonso from the first round.

  • http://darrenstuart.com ninjamonk

    Yeah true, I threw Vettel in to throw the Button haters of the scent ;)

  • Tamburello1994

    It’s early days, But Alonso looks to be in top form once again.

    Conversely, has Kimi lost a step?

  • Stoner

    come on! lets talk about this on Sunday evening, at least allow the season to begin before coming to conclusions.

  • Stoner

    Looks like Vettel will soon be back to where he left off last year with Hamilton in the mix. If Vettel’s car was okay, he would have easily been faster that Ricciardo’s 1:44:548 and maybe beat Hamilton because the margin was small. Red Bull cars will get faster in few races. I hope this year will be different.

  • RBC

    Button and Vettel were both slower than their team mates in Q1 and Q2, showing a consistent trend,

  • Amos James

    Stoner. … if kimi had shown better pace, you would’ve been crowing loudly.

  • Amos James

    Kimi has always struggled when the car wasn’t in a very narrow window. Hopefully he’ll finish well and be easy on tyres and fuel.

    His best is yet to come

  • Stoner

    No i wouldn’t, I replied because you already started bit(hing even before the 1st race has started. and i would keep replying when n00bs talk out of their a$&.

  • Amos James

    Why do u say he would be easily faster than ricciardo? What makes u think that?

  • Amos James

    Ninjamonk hahahah good call … I’m surprised the button haters aren’t out in force.

  • http://bryanvcpalacio.weebly.com brianne

    huh? vettel was almost 2secs slower than hamilton, fanboy

  • http://bryanvcpalacio.weebly.com brianne

    its a typical fanboy remark

  • Amos James

    Oh. Yeah, I see that now.

  • Stoner

    I am no vettel fan boy, but i have to admit that he is much faster than most drivers on the grid. If you have been watching F1 for a long time you would know that. Look at his qualifying record itself. In the same car vettel was always faster than mark until now. They wouldn’t have used team orders in qualifying????

  • Stoner

    No I wouldn’t. I replied only because you already came to a judgement that all is done

  • Amos James

    Ricciardo was consistently faster than his team mate, too. Wow. … this is confusing.

    Kimi was consistently slower than grosjean in the second half of last year….

    So grosjean is faster than kimi who is faster than vettel who is faster than ricciardo who was faster than all of them, yesterday.

  • Amos James

    I only commented on fact, I didn’t predict the future. I’m not a Nando fanboi….

  • http://bryanvcpalacio.weebly.com brianne

    ok so lets talk now that alonso finished ahead of kimi…

  • Amos James

    Well…. he spent the race scrapping with toro rosso’s…. wildly outpaced by alonso…. made heaps of errors. …

    But still finished in the points. He’s a consistent finisher.

  • Tamburello1994

    Again, early days but that wasn’t an impressive showing by Raikkonen. He probably had no pads on the brakes by the last lap.

  • Stoner

    Dude, RICCIARDO WAS NOT CONSISTENTLY FASTER THAN JEAN ERIC. HE WAS ONLY OCCASIONALLY FASTER. AS WAS JEAN ERIC.

    I get it, you are trying to get it to the subject of Kimi.
    Well the race is over. Alonso sat on his A** at 5th place , where as Kimi consistently over took people in the race and finished way ahead from where started

  • Stoner

    “I only commented on fact”
    Oh, so with just one qualifying over you assume you got your facts right. Amazing talent.

  • Stoner

    Hey, it was just the first race. as i told you yesterday to wait till the race finish on sunday, Alonso’s top form didn’t take him anywhere. he just sat on his A** at 5th place whereas Kimi did over take other cars more often in today’s race making up places and finishing way ahead of where he started. So who was better on Sunday?

  • Amos James

    30-9 ricciardo vs Jev.

    Kimi overtook no one on track. They fell off ir retired.

    Alonso wasn’t overtaken on track, but he did overtake.

    You lose.

  • Amos James

    Actually, fan fiction boy…..

    Kimi didn’t overtake on track. Other fell off or retired.

    He was overtaken, though!

    Alonso was never overtaken on track. He did overtake, tho.

    Looks like it is very clearly a win to Alonso. Fourth, not fifth btw.

  • Amos James

    To be fair I’m only pointing out kimi’s inadequecies to make stoner cry.

    Although kimi probably did that already