The winter is over. Spring is here and the Formula 1 season has begun. It all culminated in qualifying for the season-opening race in Melbourne Australia where Williams F1 rookie driver, Lance Stroll, immediately suffered a gearbox change grid penalty after a crash during Free Practice 3. The session started for Sauber without their main driver, Pascal Werhlein, as he was deemed unfit to race due to a 9-month-old back injury he sustained while competing in the Race of Champions.
Pole position was secured by Lewis Hamilton by but unlike seasons past, it was not by the normal 1.5s rather by a mere .268s which means that Ferrari have made progress over the winter and seemingly have closed the gap to Mercedes.
Also nice to see all those cars run on Ultra-soft tires and yet at the end of the session, there were no massive marble gardens on the outsides of the turns.
The first session started with some animated action in the Red Bull garage as team members worked on the cars as the lights went green. Williams were still working on Stroll’s car as well trying to get it ready for a run in Q1.
Ferrari were out early and Kimi Raikkonen was on a flyer but ran wide and aborted the first run. Valtterin Bottas took the early lead with a 1:24.5 and his teammate, Lewis Hamilton, with a 1:24.53s.
Early running had Mercedes a half second faster than any other team in just sector one. With six minutes left in Q1, Hamilton took the top of the time sheet with a 1:24.191 and his teammate, Bottas, was three tenths off his pace with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel just over a second slower. Ferrari were on Super-soft tires with Mercedes on Ultra-softs.
One of the success stories from Q1 was the performance of McLaren’s Fernando Alonso who managed to get his car into 12th for Q1.
Giovinazzi, Magnussen, Vandoorne, Stroll and Palmer were eliminated in Q1. Quite a disparity between Renault’s Jolyon Palmer, who was in 20th and his teammate, Nico Hulkenberg, who finished Q1 in 5th.
Hamilton led the session but Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen managed to squeak into second three tenths off Lewis’s pace.
Hamilton, Raikkonen, Verstappen, Bottas, Hulkenberg, Perez, Massa, Vettel, Ricciardo, Grosjean, Sainz, Alonso, Kvyat, Ocon and Ericsson advanced finished Q1 in that order and in doing so, advanced to Q2.
As the session started, the threat of rain was seemingly more real as the sun dipped behind clouds and the ambient light began to darken. Bottas set the marker with a 1:23.215 on Ultra-soft tires.
All cars on Ultra-soft tires and Alonso radioed that he had a loss of power after riding the curbs which does play into the narrative that the Honda is having trouble in vibration. Kudos to Haas F1’s Romain Grosjean for getting through to Q3.
While the Q1 session seemed to suggest that both Force India cars were quick, they failed to make it into Q3. Perez, Hulkenberg, Alonso, Ocon and Ericsson failed to advance to Q3.
Bottas out first again followed by Ferrari’s vettel. Vettel bested Bottas but both were surpassed by Lewis Hamilton and Raikkonen secured 4th just as Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo uncharacteristically crashed out causing a red flag session.
As the session resumed, the sun resumed as well with a break in the clouds and just 7:30 minutes left in the Q3. While Grosjean came ou when the light turned green, the rest of the teams waited to make one final attempt for pole.
While Bottas was setting purple secotrs, Hamilton, behind, swept up the after him trading purple sectors. Hamilton beat Bottas by nearly three tenths. Vettel joined Hamilton on the front row besting Bottas.
Lewis secured his 62 pole position just three behind Ayrton Senna.