McLaren On Top Down Under
It was all about one team in qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix but it wasn’t the team that many tipped. Instead, McLaren dominated proceedings as Lewis Hamilton pipped team mate Jenson Button with a 1 minute 24.922 as the Woking-based outfit secured the front row. Romain Grosjean impressed for Lotus by going third fastest ahead of Michael Schumacher while Ferrari failed to make it through to Q3.
Hamilton put in an assured first run in Q3 that proved good enough to clinch pole. 0.7 seconds clear at that stage, his rivals could only close in and it was Jenson Button who won the fight for second on the grid handing first bragging rights to McLaren.
Romain Grosjean was mightly impressive in edging his Lotus third, just ahead of a resurgent Michael Schumacher. After enduring a torrid time as Fernando Alonso’s sidekick in his previous brief foray into Formula One, the Frenchman has already underlined what he’s capable of.
Everyone thought Red Bull would probably be the team to beat, even if the rest of the pack had closed the gap. Christian Horner even began the weekend bragging that the RB8 hadn’t run on low fuel yet, in an ominous warning to their rivals. However, once they did have the car down to the bare minimum, the RB8 has so far proved to be a shadow of its illustrious predecessor. One positive note for Mark Webber – he did beat Vettel.
Sadly, Caterham don’t appear to have closed the gap to the midfield – even if Ferrari seem a whole lot closer.
Ferrari warned that they would struggle for a podium finish but fans didn’t think it would be this bad. Perhaps Fernando Alonso might have scraped through to Q3 if he hadn’t spun out into the gravel. Fact is he didn’t and ’scraped through’ probably would have been an adequate description. The field are tightly bunched ahead of them and the fact that Alonso was only one second down on the bunch immediately ahead gives The Scuderia reason to be hopeful – Massa, though, was a further second adrift and McLaren look a long way off.
Given what his young team mate achieved, Kimi Raikkonen must be kicking himself for finding himself stranded in Q1. Having made a mistake on his first run, the Finn backed off thinking he had time for another flying lap – which meant he didn’t.
It’s still hard to predict as race pace is still open to debate but with the inexperienced Grosjean behind them, I think it’s going to be a straight battle between the McLarens – and that might just come down to who is leading at the end of the first lap. However, reliability may come into play and don’t rule out Red Bull climbing their way back towards the front.
Qualifying Lap Times
|5. Webber||Red Bull-Renault||1:25.651|
|6. Vettel||Red Bull-Renault||1:25.668|
|9. Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:26.451|
|10. Ricciardo||Toro Rosso-Ferrari||No time set|
|Q2 cut-off time:||1:26.319|
|11. Vergne||Toro Rosso-Ferrari||1:26.429|
|15. Di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1:27.086|
|17. Perez||Sauber-Ferrari||No time set|
|Q1 cut-off time:||1:27.633|
|23. De la Rosa||HRT-Cosworth||1:33.495|
107% time: 1:32.214
|Sector 1||Sector 2||Sector 3|
|Button||28.329 s||Rosberg||22.607 s||Grosjean||33.907 s|
|Hamilton||28.358 s||Schumacher||22.625 s||Hamilton||33.910 s|
|Maldonado||28.470 s||Hamilton||22.654 s||Button||34.035 s|
What are your predictions for the race? Who will win the season opener? Who should have done better in qualifying? What does this mean for Red Bull’s and Ferrari’s season? Can Lotus and Mercedes turn this into a good race result?
Photo: Vodafone McLaren Mercedes