Lewis Hamilton set a new track record – and then beat it again – as he took pole position for the Australian Grand Prix.
The reigning world champion clocked a one minute 21.014-second lap in Q2 and went more than half a second faster to claim his 84th career pole and sixth consecutive at Albert Park.
He will start alongside team-mate Valtteri Bottas who went faster than Hamilton with his first flying lap in Q3 but was pipped by 0.112 seconds to complete a Mercedes lockout of the front row.
Hamilton had been top of every practice session going into Saturday’s qualification under blue skies in Melbourne and set a new track record with a tidy lap in the second qualifying session, surpassing it in the top 10 shootout.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel qualified third, 0.704 seconds behind the five-time world champion, and will be joined on the second row by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen who was 0.130 seconds further behind.
Vettel’s team-mate Charles Leclerc starts fifth ahead of Haas drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen, while British rookie Lando Norris clocked a lap of one minute 22.304 seconds and will start eighth.
Hamilton said: “I’m shaking, what a beautiful day and thank you to the crowd for a great atmosphere.
“The team had no idea during testing what we would be up against and they’ve worked so hard in the factory and here this weekend.
“The team have worked to perfection.”
There was to be no home luck for Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo who failed to make it out of Q2 by 0.038 seconds, while Verstappen’s team-mate Pierre Gasly was a shock exit in the first qualifying session and will start Sunday’s race in 18th, ahead of the Williams duo of George Russell and Robert Kubica.
Final Positions after Qualifying:
- Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 1min 20.486secs
- Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes GP 1:20.598
- Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 1:21.190
- Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull 1:21.320
- Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari 1:21.442
- Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas F1 1:21.826
- Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas F1 1:22.099
- Lando Norris (Gbr) McLaren 1:22.304
- Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Alfa Romeo Racing 1:22.314
- Sergio Perez (Mex) Racing Point 1:22.781
- Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Renault 1:22.562
- Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Renault 1:22.570
- Alexander Albon (Tha) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:22.636
- Antonio Giovinazzi (Ita) Alfa Romeo Racing 1:22.714
- Daniil Kvyat (Rus) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:22.774
- Lance Stroll (Can) Racing Point 1:23.017
- Pierre Gasly (Fra) Red Bull 1:23.020
- Carlos Sainz (Spa) McLaren 1:23.084
- George Russell (Gbr) Williams 1:24.360
- Robert Kubica (Pol) Williams 1:26.067
Right, that is it from me today…
…stay tuned for Oliver Brown’s full qualifying report and further analysis throughout the weekend and into next week. It is just the first qualifying session of the year but Mercedes look miles ahead of Ferrari. Vettel was 0.7s behind Hamilton and Leclerc was a whole second behind. It doesn’t take the brain of Britain to work out that is a lot of pace. Still, race pace is another thing.
Other notable points from qualifying:
- Lando Norris took an excellent eighth for McLaren
- Haas look the best of the rest in P6 and P7
- Pierre Gasly and Red Bull got their strategy wrong and were eliminated in Q1
- Williams are, really, really slow. Robert Kubica’s Q1 time was 5.5 seconds away from Hamilton’s eventual pole lap
Did Sainz have the pace to match Norris?
Are McLaren much-improved? Or is the midfield so hideously tight that very small errors and actions can have huge differences?
Aarrggh… that’s disappointing. Lap was coming together nicely to comfortably make it into Q2 but unfortunately I found the punctured Williams in the middle of turn 14 and lost everything in the last sector. Frustrating, but we’ll think of a good strategy for tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/8ZHYvkCMPk
— Carlos Sainz (@Carlossainz55) March 16, 2019
Kimi Raikkonen reacts to P9
I am a bit disappointed. The car had good speed but I never put a good lap together. We need to take what we have got and try to improve tomorrow. Maybe we end up fighting in a different place but I think we have potential in the team…a good group of people. I am very happy where I am.
Daniel Ricciardo reacts to a disappointing P12
I knew it was going to be close but I did believe we had the pace for Q3. It was just half a tenth to get into Q3 and that was in the car. I was more frustrated with myself because I knew it was there in the car. It would have been nice to get into Q3. It’s alright. Normally if I don’t qualify as well as I think I can I carry a little chip on my shoulder in the race and that helps me out. I am optimistic for the race.
Charles Leclerc reacts to fifth place on the grid
I am not happy with myself. The second run, I did a mistake, I locked up in turn one and it was a messy lap from my side. Top three definitely there, top two not. It’s very difficult because all the exits are on the astroturf. I am pretty sure things will get better but I have to work on my side.
Norris reacts to P8
I enjoyed it to a point. I was so nervous. Enjoyment comes from once I completed a lap I was happy with and seeing how happy the team were. I did enjoy it a lot. I did three runs, I used two sets of runs. Our aim was to get into Q2. That went pretty well.
For now I am very happy but I have a long day tomorrow. I think it’s massive to see that it’s possible to do it. We have in some ways moved forward from last year. I feel like a maximised everything…to an extent. We need to do a lot of work to maintain these Q3s. Today was not a one off but it won’t happen all the time.
Toto Wolff reacts to his team’s front row lock-out
I am really overwhelmed. After the tests it didn’t look like this at all. The team did a great job, really pulled every bit we had. A really unbelievable feeling. We need to keep our feet on the ground.
Yeah, he delivered. It’s one of Lewis’s favourite tracks and he was just two tenths off.
Vettel reacts to a distant third
Congrats to Lewis and Valtteri. We had an off in Q2 which wasn’t planned. The car feels alright. Today I thought it was okay but compared to those guys we were not quick enough. We have a good car. This track is quite specific. Not worried too much but it’s not great. I think we can [win]. The race is over when there’s the chequered flag. We have a good car, we have a good race car, we are in good form. Obviously Mercedes are the clear favourites…but we here to race.
Bottas reacts to second on the grid
We really made some good progress. I had a difficult practice three and we turned things around for qualifying. Quali 3 lap one was good. Lewis had a good lap in the end. Anyways it was fun and I look forward to tomorrow. The race is tomorrow. I have to say as a team after a quite tricky winter testing it was an amazing job to turn the car around.
Hamilton reacts to his sixth consecutive Australian GP pole
Shaking. It was so close out there. Coming from testing, we had no idea where we would be. Valtteri did an exceptional job out there. It’s great to see the top 16 or 17 are within a second.
Well, it sounds a bit odd to say it…
…but that was a bit of an upset. In a manner of speaking. Mercedes have beasted it today. Absolutely.
LEWIS HAMILTON TAKES POLE POSITION FOR THE 2019 AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX!
Bottas not improving…Hamilton needs to find time here. Can he do it? Yes! He does! By a tenth of a second!
Can anyone beat that?
Leclerc a second off from Hamilton, Vettel 0.7 seconds off! Verstappen still has to complete his lap…can he upset the order, between the Ferraris?
Yes, he splits them! It’s fourth!
THAT’S POLE FOR HAMILTON.
Q3 – One minute to go…
…Hamilton goes quickest in sector one! 0.4 up from his last lap…he’s down in sector two though!
Norris’s time there was on used tyres…
…so some improvement expected here. Can he hold off Raikkonen and Perez? Maybe one. Ferrari send both of their cars out together, Hamilton has Norris between his car and Bottas. Verstappen comes out of the garage very late. Should have enough time, though.
Hamilton goes very gently before flooring it on the pit straight for his hot lap…what can he do?
Well, if Ferrari are holding pace back…
…I am not sure where they are hiding it. It’d have to be coming out of their ears. Mattia Binotto might feel quite worried here…
Q3 – Verstappen in fifth
Actually, I can’t think that mistake – watching a replay – cost Hamilton too much time. Maybe a tenth or so.
Anyway, top 10 after the first runs:
- RAI (no time)
- PER (no time)
Q3 – Bottas monsters the first sector…
…two tenths up on Hamilton in sector one…and he’s even quicker in sector two!
Hamilton sets a 1.21.055…but Bottas hammers that! It’s a 1.20.598! Hamilton made a little mistake early on but that is A LOT of time to find on his next run.
Vettel third, six tenths down, Leclerc fourth 0.844 away…
Errr. Well, that was unexpected.
Everyone out apart from Raikkonen and Perez…
…who may, I suppose, only do one run. Hamilton saying he’s struggling with his front right brake. The Ferraris at the back of the pack here, track position-wise. Mercs at the front. Hamilton gets a bit wild into turn one and two…
It’s the pole position shoot out! 12 minutes to go…
Can Ferrari upset the order here?! Are they holding anything back?
George Russell: “I crossed the line with a smile on my face”
“I am not really interested in beating Robert [Kubica] if it’s for 19th position. We have no interest in fighting for last. Formula One is such a complex sport…it’s going to take time to rebuild what we need to. Unfortunately this is where we are going to be for a couple of races to come.”
Fair but firmly spoken from the Norfolk man there.
Pierre Gasly reacts to his elimination from Q1
We have been quite optimistic and we didn’t expect such a track evolution. It’s pretty tough because I felt good in FP3. Clearly the track evolution was big and it was quite a surprise. We are clearly not where we would like to be but session after session we are going in the right direction.
Q2 – top 10, these drivers through to Q3
Some interesting times there. Mercedes look a mile ahead at the moment. Surely Ferrari aren’t holding much back here. Ooh Vettel ran very wide at the quick chicane but he’s through. Haas looking very quick indeed.
Q2 – final runs underway
Hamilton goes fastest in sector 1. Sector two he’s still up. Vettel a little way a away, as is Leclerc. Sixth for Magnussen and quickest for Hamilton by 0.2s! Norris nudges himself into P9. Will he stay there? It’s going to be close.
Kvyat can’t get out of the drop zone, nor can Ricciardo, nor can Albon! Perez does…just…!
Norris is through to Q3 in his first grand prix. Both Renault cars out!
Q2 – 3 minutes to go…
…and everyone out! Front-runners not risking it. Wise, given how close it is and how quickly the track sped up. You absolutely cannot risk it here.
Top 10 after the first runs
Raikkonen only 0.4s from Vettel, which is decent. I can’t see which tyres they were on but I think soft compounds.
Drivers in danger after the first runs
Norris about 0.8s from 10th, Grosjean 0.25s.
Q2 – Raikkonen currently best-of-the-rest…
…in P5. Magnussen just behind but by over a tenth. Grosjean over cooks it in the final sector and costs himself a few tenths. What can Verstappen do here. This is very important for Red Bull, with Gasly out…
It’s second for the Dutchman. Miles behind Bottas but second nonetheless.
Seven minutes to go…
Q2 – 9 minutes to go
Given how rarely Stoffel Vandoorne made it through to Q2 last season that’s a good effort on his debut last year by Norris. Beats his team-mate, too, which is always the minimum. Sainz lost time with the Kubica incident.
Q2 – Hamilton quickest briefly…
…but makes a mistake. Vettel cannot beat it. But Lerclerc can! Only by a tenth or so though. Bottas nails a lap – putting him quickest by 0.5s. A 1.21.241, the quickest lap of the day so far.
Q1 – classification, all these lads through
What happened to Gasly there?
Did he go out for a second run? I am not sure he did and the track getting quicker caught him out. Raikkonen only just made it through. Decent from Russell to be within 0.7 or so of Sainz and 1.7 ahead of his team-mate, who slapped the wall and got a puncture towards the end of the session.
Vettel was also only in by a couple of tenths!
Q1 ends – Gasly eliminated! Leclerc quickest!
Track evolution is huge right now. Times tumbling…Norris goes third! Leclerc is quick. So is Giovinazzi! Leclerc needs to set a time! He does, it’s quickest! Everyone improving! Ricciardo gets into the top 15! And so does Albon! Nice one!
Gasly is out! What a nightmare! Oh dear!
Q1 – One minute to go!
Bottas has a poor middle sector after a quick first sector. He stays in second. Norris doing well in P10. Kevin Magnussen’s Haas comes out of his garage right in front of a Racing Point. That looked unsafe to me and could well be a fine.
Same drivers in the drop zone as a few minutes ago…
Q1 – Hamilton leads with three minutes left
Verstappen pulls out a lap good enough for third, which will be a relief. He’s still 0.5s down. Hamilton improves by three tenths with a 1.22 dead. It’s pretty tight around the drop zone now. Apart from the Williams cars the pack looks very compressed throughout, really. An error could be costly for many a driver here.
Q1 – Bottas leads with five minutes left
Ricciardo splits the Red Bulls but is behind his team-mate. Despite setting the quickest middle sector, Magnussen gets on the grass a bit in the final sector and his time is not good enough for the top 15.
Drivers in danger:
Q1 – 7 minutes to go
Well, Red Bull are a LONG way off the pace. Gasly and Verstappen are behind both Perez and Hulkenberg.
Grosjean, Magnussen, Ricciardo yet to set a time, presumably going for one run only here. Ricciardo on his hot lap now and it looks okay so far.
Q1 – Mercedes top the pack with 8 minutes go to
Hamilton 0.274 up on Kvyat after sector two. Bottas goes quicker still. Who will set the faster time of the two? It’s Bottas by 0.003s. Perez nips in there to go third with a 1.22.9! Vettel’s second quick lap soon displaces him though but he’s still two tenths behind Bottas and Hamilton.
Q1 – 11 minutes to go
Vettel 0.36 up on Norris in sector 1. Sector 2 he’s half a second up. Medium tyres, though. It’s a 1.23.891 for Vettel, 0.763 up from the young McLaren man. Not a huge gap but the tyre gap might be the issue.
Having said that Charles Leclerc goes top with a 1.23.3 for the quickest time on the same medium tyres as his team-mate. That’s quickly beaten by Daniil Kvyat, though. Just. Plenty of change. Hamilton about to start his hot lap…
Q1 – 14 minutes to go
First things first: the size of the DRS opening on these new cars is HUGE. Will that help overtaking? Lando Norris will be the first driver to set a time. It’s a 1.24.654 for the young man. Kubica cannot beat that, he’s two seconds behind, having made an error somewhere out there. Russell likewise is a little way from Norris’s lap but within just over second or so.
Q1 begins! 18 minutes to go…
…the 2019 F1 season gets going, competitively. No points on offer today but track position.
Lando Norris getting ready ahead of his first qualifying session…
…is a McLaren improvement on the cards? Who of the three rookies is most likely to take a point this weekend?
Reminder that Red Bull finished sixth and ninth in final practice…
…if they finish there in qualifying, well. Falling back into the midfield is not what they wanted when they teamed up with Honda. Still, a long way to go yet. A very long way.
Just over 15 minutes to go until Q1 begins…
You have to say that…
…SportPesa Racing Point F1 team just rolls off the tongue. I think we’ll stick to Racing Point, right? Still, I like their new pink and blue livery. Reminds me of Dulwich Hamlet.
I am going to stick with my pre-race and pre-season thinking and go for Vettel. Last season he ruined his chances with errors but he still put in plenty of good performances. And his one-lap pace is still superb. I think he will have it in him to find that extra tenth or so here today. I am also thinking to last season when Hamilton pulled an insanely quick pole time out of nowhere.
What can Bottas do this season?
It’s make or break for him at a top team you would think. He started last season reasonably strongly before struggling to match Hamilton’s qualifying and race pace in the final third of the year. He could have had a few wins but ended up with none. Esteban Ocon is lurking in the garage and will be eyeing up the Finn’s seat. Bottas will be hoping to have a better qualifying here than in 2018 when he dropped it in turns one and two.
A summary of the driver changes for new season…quite a few new faces…and a few returning ones
Three drivers will make their F1 debut in Australia. Lando Norris for McLaren, George Russell for Williams and Alexander Albon for Toro Rosso. Elsewhere, Kimi Raikkonen moves from Ferrari to Alfa Romeo, swapping seats with Charles Leclerc. Robert Kubica makes a welcome return to F1 for Williams after nine years away and Antonio Giovinazzi, who raced two grands prix at the start of the 2017 season, lines up alongside Raikkonen.
Daniil Kvyat, the forgotten man of F1, moves back to Toro Rosso in what will surely be his final chance in F1. Daniel Ricciardo‘s move to Renault from Red Bull meant Carlos Sainz left Renault for McLaren and Pierre Gasly graduated from Toro Rosso to Red Bull. Lance Stroll has a seat in his father’s new Racing Point team.
A summary of the team changes for 2019
Red Bull now have Honda power units, after more than a decade with Renault. Sauber have become Alfa Romeo but the make-up of the team largely remains the same, they will still be based in Hinwil and their livery is almost identical to last year’s.
Haas have a new title sponsor, Rich Energy, and their livery is a (slightly underwhelming) black and gold. Force India are no longer but have effectively been renamed Racing Point after a buyout at the end of last season, led by Lance Stroll’s father Lawrence.
A bit of a “moment” for the returning Robert Kubica in the pit lane…
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We should of course remember the passing of race director Charlie Whiting
Who passed away in Melbourne just a couple of days ago. Our Chief Sports Feature Writer Oliver Brown pays tribute to Whiting.
Since 1997, Whiting had presided over every facet of F1 race weekends, from safety to starting grids to the stringent enforcement of regulations. Over that 22-year period, the former mechanic, who had begun his path in motorsport by preparing his brother Nick’s yellow Ford Escort for races at Brands Hatch, acquired an unrivalled grasp of F1’s byzantine rulebook. Even if he once memorably clashed with Sebastian Vettel – who berated him angrily over his in-car radio in Mexico in 2016 – he wore his knowledge lightly, endearing himself to drivers through his unaffected manner.
The track for this weekend’s race
Three DRS zones this year. So the same as last year. Didn’t really make much of a difference this year but we have new regs this year, especially around aerodynamic performance, so it could be a bit different.
Final times from FP3
- Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 01mins 22.292secs
- Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 01:22.556
- Charles Leclerc (Fra) Ferrari 01:22.749
- Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas F1 01:23.112
- Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas F1 01:23.334
- Pierre Gasly (Fra) Red Bull 01:23.367
- Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes GP 01:23.422
- Daniil Kvyat (Rus) Scuderia Toro Rosso 01:23.442
- Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull 01:23.481
- Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Renault 01:23.695
- Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Renault 01:23.737
- Antonio Giovinazzi (Ita) Alfa Romeo Racing 01:23.831
- Carlos Sainz (Spa) McLaren 01:24.049
- Sergio Perez (Mex) Racing Point 01:24.082
- Alexander Albon (Tha) Scuderia Toro Rosso 01:24.328
- Lance Stroll (Can) Racing Point 01:24.345
- Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Alfa Romeo Racing 01:24.402
- Lando Norris (Gbr) McLaren 01:24.568
- George Russell (Gbr) Williams 01:25.944
- Robert Kubica (Pol) Williams 01:26.589
Good morning F1 fans
…and a very early morning for those of you in the UK and Europe. Welcome to our live coverage from the season-opening Australian Grand Prix!
The start of the 2019 F1 season proper is around an hour away. As ever it felt like a long winter but the wait will soon be over for the drivers, teams and fans. We will finally find out who holds the upper hand and who has been given a bum deal. Of course, we have a fairly decent idea after final practice, but there is always the suspicion that the top teams will be keeping their cards close to their chests.
Despite the pre-season testing form hinting (well, a little more than hinting…) that Ferrari would be the team to beat, it has been Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes who have been fastest in every single free practice session so far in Melbourne. After the first two people may have thought that Ferrari were not showing their true pace but after final practice it appears that it could be very close.
In FP3 earlier today Hamilton was fastest by around two-tenths of a second from Sebastian Vettel. The second Ferrari of Charles Leclerc was another couple of tenths behind and then it was all a bit mixed up, really (full FP3 times shortly). Teams and drivers still starting to understand their cars and a bit of tightness in the midfield. The Haas cars – in fourth and fifth – again look quick around the Albert Park circuit. But that was the case last year before two pit stop errors ended any chances of big points or points at all. The wheels literally came off.
Unfortunately – and somewhat predictably – for Williams, George Russell and Robert Kubica were 19th and 20th, around four or so seconds off the pace. Their times were well inside the 107 per cent time required to qualify to start the race but should the pole man – whoever that is – find another second or so then it might look a bit tricky.
I will be here for the next couple of hours to take you through the very first qualifying session of the 2019 season. I feel like a kid at Christmas. Not sure I ever got up this early to open my presents, though.
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