In the F1 Saturday notebook, we bring you on-site coverage of the Australian GP. Follow along through the day for driver commentary, updates from the paddock and more!
Hamilton takes pole position in first qualifying session of 2014 season!
Lewis Hamilton followed the form book by taking pole for the Australian GP, but it was far from easy for the Mercedes driver, who like his rivals had to deal with changeable conditions.
“It’s been an interesting weekend,” said Hamilton. “Today, it made it so much harder for everyone with the conditions. I’m really happy for the job the team did. You know these new cars are so much harder to drive in the wet and it was the first time for me driving in the wet, as I’m sure it was for a lot of people. A serious task and challenge today, but for both me and Nico to be up here is a great showing for the team and it’s obviously great to see Ricciardo up here for his first Grand Prix with Red Bull.”
In Q3 both Mercedes drivers choose to pit for new wets, rather than intermediates like most of their rivals.
“It was kind of on the limit. It was very difficult to know what the turnover point was. Do you take a risk or not? I decided not to. Ricciardo, Daniel did a really good job on the inters, so obviously it was a very close call between the two. But the conditions made it extremely difficult. There’s so much more power, so you’re short-shifting all the way down into fifth, sixth, seventh before you can get the full throttle. But great fun otherwise and I hope the weather is better tomorrow, mostly for the fans, but also for us.”
Software glitch drops Vettel to unlucky 13th
A software glitch saw Sebastian Vettel qualify only 13th in Australia on a day when teammate Daniel Ricciardo earned second place.
A faulty sensor cost the German both power and driveability, and the only consolation is that he has gained a place from a penalty to Valtteri Bottas, and will thus start 12th.
“I think we have made a big step forward with the car, but of course I’m not happy that we didn’t make it to Q3,” he said. “I think the car is quick, but we struggled this afternoon with driveability which, in these conditions, made it even worse.
“It’s going to be a long race tomorrow and reliability will be the most important thing to make it to the flag, but I think there will be lots of opportunities for us.”
Team boss Christian Horner said: “It was unlucky for Seb. His engine software meant he was down on power with extremely poor drivability and we need to understand that, as it compromised his qualifying, but we’re really pleased for Dan. The car’s good – our weakness is on the straights and in the wet you can’t go so fast on the straights, so we’ve got to work on that. To start on the front row tomorrow is unexpected, it was a tremendous performance.”
Ricciardo stars at home by grabbing second spot
Daniel Ricciardo delighted the Australian GP by securing a stunning second place on the grid for his first race with Red Bull.
The local hero was quick throughout the dry then wet session, and in the end lost out only to Lewis Hamilton, who crossed the line just seconds after he did.
“Definitely the weather added to the mix and the whole session went well,” said Ricciardo. “Not everyone was out with options at the beginning but Q1 looked like it was going OK for us. And then when the rain fell, as Lewis said, it’s the first time we’ve all driven these cars on the limit in wet conditions. It was tricky but at the same time, of course, a lot of fun. It was nice to be always up there. The engineer was on the radio saying ‘pace is good, P1, P2, P3’ it was always in that battle for the pole position. So definitely a really nice qualifying session with the team.
“The car was pretty good to drive in the wet. I think at the start of the year we were all fearing how difficult these new animals would be in wet conditions. It’s always a bit of a handful but at the same time it was quite nice behind the wheel. Controlling the turbo and all that on throttle was good fun. I’m pretty excited. I heard all the crowd on the cool-down lap, so all I can say is hopefully I will hear that tomorrow.”
Ricciardo admitted that the race will be a bit of step into the unknown for his team.
“Fuel is probably the question mark for a lot of teams. We still haven’t done a race distance yet so each lap we do in the race, we’re going to understand more and more, and how we’re looking. I think behind the wheel not too much will change, I’ll just keep getting information from the pit wall.
“You know there’s different modes and everything to control consumption on the steering wheel and I will just act accordingly. I think tire degradation probably won’t be too bad, I think, normally with the rain now, so the washing off and making the track a bit green – as we call it – will probably be quite kind to the rears. I don’t think tire deg will be a massive issue tomorrow.”
Magnussen impresses with superb fourth
Kevin Magnussen took a superb fourth place in his first ever F1 qualifying session in Australia, emphasizing that he will be a major force from the start of his career.
“I’m happy,” he said. “This qualifying was tricky conditions, not just the weather but just in terms of me doing my first qualifying on tires that I’ve never, ever run. So tricky, and I’m happy to get out of it in fourth position. I don’t think I could have asked for much more. Tomorrow’s points, that’s what we’re here for.
“I’m massively looking forward to it. My first race in F1, I’m here, on the second row, with the team I’ve dreamt of racing for my whole life. This is amazing and I can’t wait.
“Everything is going to be a big challenge. The good thing is the car is actually very good, and no surprise. Just go out and enjoy it. The team has done a fantastic job in preparing me for this, I’ve had five days in an F1 car in my life, six days maybe, and I’m here in my first race with a top team on the second row of the grid.
“I didn’t come here with many expectations, I came here really just wanting to do my best and see where that would take me. I know what I can do. Tricky conditions, so you have to be careful in expecting too much. It’s important just to go out and enjoy it and do the best you can, and see where it takes you.”
Asked how he might feel on the grid, he said: “I’ve no idea, I’ve never tried it, so we’ll see…”
Start will be key for Mercedes duo
Sunday’s race in Australia represents the first opportunity for drivers to make a proper start with the new cars, and go through all the procedures that build up to it.
Inevitably, the focus will be on those at the front, and in particular, how the two Mercedes drivers fare against the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo that splits them, and those behind, led by Kevin Magnussen.
“You can never really be totally confident about the starts,” said Lewis Hamilton. “We practiced, but you can always wish you had more practice. I think we’ve done as much as we can, and we’re hoping tomorrow starts off well, but whatever happens we’ll improve and learn from it. Generally the start procedure is very similar, it’s just the drive out phase there’s a lot more power, so wheelspin is going to be interesting.”
Meanwhile Rosberg stresseed how important it would be to get past Ricciardo.
“Of course it will be important to try and pass him,” he said. “And being on the clean side of the grid I have a good opportunity to do so, so I’ll try and do that. But even with the start with this new engine it’s still a learning process, and it’s going to take some time to optimize even that. I don’t know how optimized Red Bull are – hopefully not so optimized, and maybe we’ll have an advantage tomorrow at the start. If I could get him that would be a very important step, yes.”Daniel Ricciardo, Formula 1, Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, Sebastian Vettel