Lewis Hamilton stamped his authority in the season opening Australian Grand Prix qualifying session with a near faultless display. It was a sign of a gifted driver now in his prime and fulfilling every ounce of potential by claiming pole position with dominant ease ahead of tomorrows race.
Nico Rosberg who so often out qualified Hamilton during last season was helpless to do anything about Hamilton’s rampant speed around the Albert Park track and finished second, nearly half a second behind his world champion team mate.
Both Mercedes drivers murdered the opposition who were mere spectators scrapping for the second row of the grid. To everyone’s surprise Felipe Massa plucked up the courage to take 3rd, albeit 1.4 seconds adrift of the Mercedes duo but after being nowhere all weekend Massa has some thing too look forward on race day.
Most surprising of all were the Ferrari’s the team now look competitive and 4 times world champion Sebastian Vettel showed just why he is a consecutive multiple champion winning driver. He was beaten into fourth by the narrowest of margins. Ferrari may be some way off the Mercedes but at least now they have speed to challenge consistently for podiums something that was almost impossible in last years car.
Team mate Kimi Raikkonen was next up in fifth followed by Valtteri Bottas who looked most likely to be closest to the Mercedes pair but he didn’t put a lap together when it mattered most.
Red Bull so often dominant for the last few seasons had trouble all weekend and Daniel Ricciardo could only give his home fans 7th to smile about. Torro Rosso put in the surprise of the day with Carlos Sainz Jnr, son of former World Rally Champion Carlos Sainz, who secured 8th on the grid. His 17 year old team mate, Max Verstappen, looked to be on his game in the first session of qualifying but was another driver who bottled it when it mattered most.
The Lotus’s of Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado rounded off the top 10 of 20 runners competing this season, improved form at last from Lotus compared to a season ago.
The biggest strugglers of the day were expected to be McLaren-Honda and they didn’t fail to deliver on this depressing promise. After so much hype about a return to the grid for a once dominant partnership McLaren Honda dominated the news by qualifying at the back of the grid. Humiliation yes but expected humiliation nevertheless.
After the qualifying session had wrapped Hamilton said “It is so much fun in qualifying and I am just massively grateful for all the hard work.It has been a great start to the weekend, it doesn’t feel that long since the last race. It has been a big rush and huge effort form the factory to get us here with this performance.”
Nico Rosberg said: “Lewis was on impressive form today. He did an awesome job and nailed the time. For me, the speed was there; I just didn’t get it together.”
Qualifying is so often about short term euphoria, in Formula One the race day is where the business end of a Grand Prix weekend is completed. And anything can happen in the first race of the season.
Qualifying times from Albert Park: