Lewis Hamilton takes pole position to kick off his title defence in Melbourne ahead of Mercedes’s team-mate Nico Rosberg and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel as new Qualifying format disappoints.
Lewis Hamilton is the first car on track and is followed by a huge train of cars behind him as everyone wants a fast and clean lap. Nico Rosberg is the first car on a flying lap and runs wide at turn 1 which ultimately spoils his lap. Hamilton is quickest with 11 minutes to go and the elimination begins.
Manor’s Pascal Wehrlein is the first driver to be eliminated and is followed by team-mate, Rio Haryanto. Both Haas drivers, Esteban Gutierrez and Romain Grosjean are both eliminated and then its Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat. Sauber’s Felipe Nasr is eliminated and its down to Renault’s Jolyon Palmer to set a quick time or he is eliminated. His time is better than the other Sauber of Marcus Ericsson and Ericsson is eliminated.
Out: Wehrlein – 22nd, Haryanto – 21st, Gutierrez – 20th, Grosjean – 19th, Kvyat – 18th, Nasr – 17th and Ericsson – 16th.
Q2 starts and the elimination begins. Renault’s Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer are eliminated then its the improved McLaren Honda’s of Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso. Williams Valterri Bottas can’t make it through and both Force India’s of Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez are also eliminated. Hamilton is quickest in this session
Out: Magnussen – 15th, Palmer – 14th, Button – 13th, Alonso – 12th, Bottas – 11th, Hulkenberg – 10th and Perez – 9th.
For the new Qualifying format, this session is where it all went wrong in terms of excitement and intensely for me.
Q3 starts and both Mercedes and Ferrari cars are both on track. The 1st laps are in and Hamilton leads from Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen and Nico Rosberg. The elimination process begins and home favourite, Daniel Ricciardo is out for Red Bull. Torro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz is next and is followed by the Williams of Felipe Massa and the other Torro Rosso of Max Verstappen are all eliminated. Both Mercedes cars of Hamilton and Rosberg go out for one more flying lap but both Ferrari cars don’t and they are eliminated. Rosberg is quick but Hamilton is quicker still and finishes that lap under 1 minute and 23 seconds.
There are still 3 minutes left in the session and the action is over. Just 2 minutes and 30 seconds to go and both cars of Hamilton and Rosberg are back in the pits and getting out of their cars. The chequered flag falls and Hamilton, Rosberg and Vettel are preparing for the press event that interviews the top 3 drivers.
Out: Ricciardo – 8th, Sainz – 7th, Massa – 6th, Verstappen – 5th, Raikkonen – 4th
Top 3: Vettel – 3rd, Rosberg – 2nd and Hamilton- 1st.
1.Hamilton 2.Rosberg 3.Vettel 4.Raikkonen 5.Verstappen 6.Massa 7.Sainz 8.Ricciardo 9.Perez 10.Hulkenberg 11.Alonso 12.Button 13.Palmer 14.Magnussen 15.Ericsson 16.Bottas* 17.Nasr 18.Kvyat 19.Grosjean 20.Gutierrez 21.Wehrlein 22.*Haryanto
* Bottas qualified 11th and received a 5 place grid penalty for an engine change. 11th – 16th.
*Haryanto was given a 3 place grid penalty for a collision with Romain Grosjean in the pit lane in Practise 3. 21st – 22nd.
Reaction from the new Qualifying format
After Qualifying, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport, Toto Wolf said that the new format was “pretty rubbish”, Red Bull Team boss, Christian Horner apologised to fans and viewers for getting it wrong and Sky F1’s Johnny Herbert said the anti-climax finish had been “embarrassing”. Drivers, team bosses and pundits have called for change for the next race in Bahrain to go back to the old system of 3 sessions and all the slowest drivers at the end of the session would be out.
Lets hope that the disappointing new qualifying format improves the Race is on Sunday 20th March.