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McLaren On Top Down Under

By Mav | 17 Mar 2012 | 4 Comments | 2,234 views

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.

On Pole

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.
Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
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.

Virtual grid Australia 2012
Race Prediction
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

1. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:24.922
2. Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:25.074
3. Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:25.302
4. Schumacher Mercedes 1:25.336
5. Webber Red Bull-Renault 1:25.651
6. Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1:25.668
7. Rosberg Mercedes 1:25.686
8. Maldonado Williams-Renault 1:25.908
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
12. Alonso Ferrari 1:26.494
13. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1:26.590
14. Senna Williams-Renault 1:26.663
15. Di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:27.086
16. Massa Ferrari 1:27.497
17. Perez Sauber-Ferrari No time set
Q1 cut-off time: 1:27.633
18. Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1:27.758
19. Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1:28.679
20. Petrov Caterham-Renault 1:29.018
21. Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1:30.923
22. Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1:31.670
23. De la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1:33.495
24. Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1:33.643

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

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  • saltire

    Nice to see McLaren have made a big improvement though I hope that they or anyone else won’t be totally dominant this season. Having looked at the sector times, neither Button or Hamilton were top in every sector, they achieved a front row lock out with potentially, pace to spare. Very worrying for the opposition.

    Comments, I was very disappointed by Raikkonen and Massa, chuffed to bits for Schumacher and Grosjean and with a bit of luck going his way, Rosberg should do well, his final grid slot didn’t seem to agree with his performance during qualifying.

    I’m actually shocked that Red Bull are so far behind. It should be a cracker of a race tomorrow.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Mav (author)

    Having looked at the sector times, neither Button or Hamilton were top in every sector

    Hamilton top three in all three sectors though.

    Tyre preservation will have a bearing though – we may yet find that McLaren have focussed too much on quali pace and getting tyre temperature up. Testing suggests Mercedes might have done that, McLaren, Lotus and Red Bull are less certain. Not an easy track to overtake on though.

    If Grosjean/Schumacher’s race pace is slow, the McLarens could easily break away beyond the reach of DRS.

    Lots of guessing and lots of ifs though.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Mav (author)

    Just looked back at last year’s Q3 http://www.vivaf1.com/blog/?p=6100

    Ignoring Hulkenberg, one second covers the Q1 pack. Last year it was over two seconds (although 0.8 of that was Vettel alone) so a closer field? Question is whether Hamilton could have stretched that out a lot further on his second run if needed I suppose…

      (Quote)  (Reply)

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