Hamilton leads soggy first session of 2016 | Australian GP FP1 Report

The first official Formula 1 session of the 2016 Season got underway at 12:30 local time in Melbourne on Friday, ending fifteen weeks without the fastest sport on earth.

Sebastian Vettel was first out on track as the Albert Park Street Circuit took the honours of first round of the season – twenty years on from its first slot on the calendar.

Damp conditions saw a very stop/start session, punctuated by both drizzly and bright spells.

A particularly wet period caught out Valtteri Bottas at Turn 7, and the Finn damaged the floor of his Williams machine, sending him back to the pit lane.

Max Verstappen pushed hard throughout, even daring to fly over the sodden astrotruf on the exit of the super-fast T12 chicane, but it was a much slower corner that caused the Dutch teenager to spin; as he spun his STR10 on the exit of T7 at low speed, due to more damp run-off.

Team mate Carlos Sainz also hit trouble, when his car toured the circuit slowly and then ran out of power in the pit lane.

A third unfortunateĀ Red Bull driver – Daniel Ricciardo – ended the session in the gravel trap at T14 as the rain fell heavier at the end of FP1, beaching his car with less than a minute to go.

Everyone kept it out of the barriers though, including the new Haas team, the re-vamped Manor team, and the returning Renault boys, clad in a new glowing gold paint scheme.

Times from FP1

1) Hamilton, Mercedes – 1.29:725 (14 Laps)
2) Kvyat, Red Bull – 1.30:146 (14 Laps)
3) Ricciardo, Red Bull – 1.30:875 (13 Laps)
4) Hulkenberg, Force India – 1.31:325 (7 Laps)
5) Verstappen, Toro Rosso – 1.31:720 (13 Laps)
6) Rosberg, Mercedes – 1.31:814 (11 Laps)
7) Alonso, McLaren – 1.33:060 (11 Laps)
8) Button, McLaren – 1.33:129 (16 Laps)
9) Perez, Force India – 1.33:370 (5 Laps)
10) Magnussen, Renault – 1.34:060 (12 Laps
11) Bottas, Williams – 1.34:550 (6 Laps)
12) Massa, Williams – 1.34:679 (6 Laps)
13) Nasr, Sauber – 1.34:796 (7 Laps)
14) Palmer, Renault – 1.35:477 (12 Laps)
15) Ericsson, Sauber – 1.37:956 (6 Laps)
16) Wehrlein, Manor – 1.40:401 (5 Laps)
17) Raikkonen, Ferrari – 1.40:754 (10 Laps)
18) Gutierrez, Haas – 1.41:780 (8 Laps)
19) Haryanto, Manor – 1.43:372 (6 Laps)
20) Grosjean, Haas – 1.43:443 (6 Laps)
21) Vettel, Ferrari – No time (8 Laps)
22) Sainz Jr, Toro Rosso – No time (3 Laps)

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Hamilton storms to Pole in Melbourne | 2015 Australian Grand Prix Qualifying

The sky on Saturday afternoon had clouded over from the dazzling sunshine, and wind became a factor.

Turns 1 and 15 in particular saw many drivers go wide, including Hamilton, Button and Hulkenberg at the former, and Carlos Sainz at the latter, who was incidentally the first on-track in the session.

Everyone initially set out on the Medium tyre, which most driver struggled with in Free Practice 3. Everyone, except for Ferrari, whose drivers Raikkonen and Vettel opted for the softer rubber. Kimi set a time easily faster than anyone else, at which point everyone realised thatĀ  they should probably put the options on too.

With both McLarens out, the pressure was off teams like Force India and the sole remaining Sauber of Nasr, but they fell at the next hurdle. Daniil Kvyat, who just barely got a lap in in time during Q1, could go no further.

The final session was a fight for the front row between the two Mercedes drivers, but behind it was anyone’s game. Hamilton set the initial pace with a staggering time of 1.26.419. It would turn out to be infallible, with Nico Rosberg not able to come up with a response. Valtteri Bottas nearly lost it at the final corner, and scraped 6th place, while his team mate took best of the rest in 3rd.

They sandwiched the Ferraris, but it was an incredible show by rookie Carlos Sainz to get up to 8th in his first Qualy session.

Sainz has every reason to smile ahead of tomorrow's race
Sainz has every reason to smile ahead of tomorrow’s race

Here’s how the drivers will line up for tomorrow’s race:

The Top 10
1) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1.26
2) Nico Rosberg, Mercedes
3) Felipe Massa, Williams4) Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari
5) Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari
6) Valtteri Bottas, Williams
7) Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull
8) Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso
9) Romain Grosjean, Lotus
10) Pastor Maldonado, Lotus

Eliminated in Q2
Felipe Nasr, Sauber
Max Verstappen, Toro Rosso
Daniil Kvyat, Red Bull
Nico Hulkenberg, Force India
Sergio Perez, Force India

Eliminated in Q1
Marcus Ericsson, Sauber
Jenson Button, McLaren
Kevin Magnussen, McLaren
Will Stevens, Manor (No time)
Roberto Merhi, Manor (No time)

Manor will not start the race due to not qualifying.

The race begins at 5am UK time on Sunday, 15 March.

Hamilton on top as Red Bull woes continue | 2015 Australian Grand Prix – Free Practice 3

Thirty degrees of Aussie sunshine welcomed the teams and drivers to session 3/100 in the 2015 Formula 1 season, and Valtteri Bottas was first out on track.

Daniil Kvyat reported problems with his Renault engine on his out lap, and his concerns manifested in an off-track excursion at the second-to-last corner. Coupled with Daniel Ricciardo’s woes from Friday morning, where he lost one of his four engines for the rest of the season, and it signaled a tough weekend for the team.

Ricciardo had sat out FP2 while the team had a look to see if his Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) could be repaired after it suffered damage in the very first session of the year. This means that the Australian now has just three engines available for the rest of the year, and will do well not to suffer any penalties for replacements.

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Pensive: Ricciardo’s home race looks set to be a tricky one

Things got even worse for last year’s triple Grand Prix winner, as his Red Bull ground to a halt at the end of the pit lane. Australian Marshals ran out to push the stricken Red Bull back towards the pit lane, where it was hurried on by his team.

Marcus Ericsson had an almighty spin with 20 minutes to go. The Swede lost the rear of the car on the exit of the super fast Turn 12, but was able to keep his car out of the wall, at the cost of his tyres, which were badly flat-spotted.

The team could take solace from the fact that the legal disputes between themselves and ex-driver-maybe-future-driver Giedo van der Garde have ended, for this weekend at least – the Dutchman is no longer pursuing a drive for this weekend

Qualifying simulations were the order of the day for the final ten minutes or so, and saw Lewis Hamilton set the fastest time of 1.27.867 on the Medium tyre.

Still nothing to speak of from Manor; their software glitches continued to hamper progress.

Times from Practice 3

1) Hamiton, Mercedes, 1.27.867 (11 Laps)
2) Vettel, Ferrari, 1.28.563 (13 Laps)
3) Rosberg, Mercedes, 1.28.821 (14 Laps)
4) Bottas, Williams, 1.28.912 (14 Laps)
5) Massa, Williams, 1.28.988 (18 Laps)
6) Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1.29.017 (13 Laps)
7) Grosjean, Lotus, 1.29.481 (12 Laps)
8) Maldonado, Lotus, 1.29.864 (15 Laps)
9) Sainz, Toro Rosso, 1.29.869 (19 Laps)
10) Nasr, Sauber, 1.29.934 (24 Laps)
11) Verstappen, Toro Rosso, 1.29.952 (16 Laps)
12) Ericsson, Sauber, 1.30.613 (21 Laps)
13) Hulkenberg, Force India, 1.30.741 (14 Laps)
14) Perez, Force India, 1.30.993 (17 Laps)
15) Ricciardo, Red Bull, 1.31.185 (10 Laps)
16) Magnussen, McLaren, 1.31.391 (14 Laps)
17) Button, McLaren, 1.31.666 (13 Laps)
18) Kvyat, Red Bull, 1.32.830 (6 Laps)

Magnussen crashes in FP2 | 2015 Australian Grand Prix – Free Practice 2

Mercedes led the way again in FP2 ahead of the Australian GP in Melbourne, but a crash for Kevin Magnussen at Turn 6 was the main focal point of the session.

The Dane, deputising this weekend for the recovering Fernando Alonso, took too much speed into Turn 6, lost the rear end, and careened into the wall after a jaunt through the gravel. He was unhurt, but his car was not so fortunate, and with a broken front-left corner, he was out of the session.

It brought the red flag out for the first time this season, but when the session was resumed, the drama did not stop.

After so much turbulence in the run up to the weekend, Sauber needed to get some time on the board after neither driver ran in FP1. However, this was not to be the case.

Marcus Ericsson exited the final corner with 40 minutes gone, but the car reacted strangely, and the left-rear suspension broke. The Swede was unfortunate enough to have to complete an entire lap in this condition, during which the tyre began rubbing violently against the bodywork, creating a large amount of smoke.

Ferrari showed some impressive pace on the medium tyre before switching to the soft, the latter of which was the tyre that everyone set their best lap on.

Jenson Button managed better running that in the first session, but reported a loss of power late on. Couple that with blue flags for apparently being too slow in front of Valtteri Bottas

Felipe Massa was unable to get out in FP2 due to a water leak. He was joined in the ‘no running club’ by Daniel Ricciardo who had an engine change, and both Manor drivers.

Times from Practice 2

1) Rosberg, Mercedes, 1.27.697 (29 Laps)
2) Hamilton, Mercedes, 1.27.797 (25 Laps)
3) Vettel, Ferrari, 1.28.412 (33 Laps)
4) Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1.28.842 (33 Laps)
5) Bottas, Williams, 1.29.265 (32 Laps)
6) Kvyat, Red Bull, Kvyat, 1.30.016 (27 Laps)
7) Sainz Jr, Toro Rosso, 1.30.071 (41 Laps)
8) Maldonado, Lotus, 1.30.104 (11 Laps)
9) Grosjean, Lotus, 1.30.205 (37 Laps)
10) Hulkenberg, Force India, 1.30.473 (30 Laps)
11) Nasr, Sauber, 1.30.755 (33 Laps)
12) Perez, Force India, 1.30.980 (32 Laps)
13) Button, McLaren, 1.31.387 (21 Laps)
14) Verstappen, Toro Rosso, 1.31.395 (6 Laps)
15) Ericsson, Sauber, 1.32.303 (14 Laps)
16) Magnussen, McLaren, 1.33.289 (4 Laps)

– No Time –

Ricciardo, Red Bull
Massa, Williams
Stevens, Manor
Merhi, Manor

Mercedes continue to Reign | 2015 Australian Grand Prix – Free Practice 1

The first official session of Formula 1 in 2015 got underway on Friday morning in Melbourne, Australia, and it was a familiar tale, as Mercedes eased to the top of the timing screens, Rosberg a smidgeon (0.029 Sec) faster than Hamilton.

First on track was F1’s youngest ever driver Max Verstappen. After a tough time in testing, McLaren also got Kevin Magnussen out on track early. The Dane deputising for Fernando Alonso.

David Croft had some words regarding McLaren’s car, which had a tough time in testing:

The MP4-30 makes a rasping noise on downshift that sounds like an old 1950s blues singer clearing his throat.”

Whatever the noise may be, McLaren’s morning went as well as can be expected, with an unlucky 13 laps for their two drivers combined.

Magnussen did go wide at turn 3 after half an hour, as did many other drivers, including Felipe Massa.

McLaren had to end their running 15 minutes early due to what they described as a small mechanical issue.

Sebastian Vettel’s first outing in the car he has dubbed ‘Eva’ went well, and he clocked 5th fastest overall, despite an off at the super-fast Turn 11-12 complex toward the end of the session.

Sauber did not run due to the ongoing court case of Giedo van der Garde vs Sauber F1 Team, in which the Ductch driver is pursuing a race seat after unfair dismissal in 2014.

Times from Practice 1

1) Rosberg, Mercedes, 1.29.557 (19 Laps)
2) Hamilton, Mercedes, 1.29.586 (19 Laps)
3) Bottas, Williams, 1.30.748 (20 Laps)
4) Sainz Jr, Toro Rosso, 1.31.014 (32 Laps)
5) Vettel, Ferrari, 1.31.029 (13 Laps)
6) Verstappen, Toro Rosso, 1.31.067 (31 Laps)
7) Massa, Williams, 1.31.188 (19 Laps)
8) Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1.31.310 (14 Laps)
9) Maldonado, Lotus, 1.31.451 (22 Laps)
10) Ricciardo, Red Bull, 1.31.570 (9 Laps)
11) Kvyat, Red Bull, 1.32.073 (18 Laps)
12) Perez, Force India, 1.32.247 (22 Laps)
13) Hulkenberg, Force India, 1.32.261 (19 Laps)
14) Button, McLaren, 1.34.542 (6 Laps)
15) Magnussen, McLaren, 1.34.785 (7 Laps)

– No time –

Grosjean, Lotus
Ericsson, Sauber
Nasr, Sauber
Stevens, Manor
Merhi, Manor

Rosberg and the Rookies Rampant | 2014 Australian Grand Prix Race Report

Nico Rosberg today won the Australian Grand Prix for Mercedes, finishing a whopping 25 seconds ahead of the next challenger. That challenger just happened to be Daniel Ricciardo, netting a superb podium on his debut for his new team Red Bull. However, the Australian’s characteristic mile-of-smile soon turned upside-down, as an FIA investigation found his car’s fuel flow rate to be higher than the regulations’ 100kg/ hour limit.

Kevin Magnussen in his very first race initially came third, but was hoisted to a sublime 2nd after the demise of the Australian. That also brought Jenson Button up to third. Rosberg and the disqualified Ricciardo’s team mates – World Champions Vettel and Hamilton no less – failed to complete 5 laps, both retiring with power unit problems.

BACKGROUND

Hamilton set the pace on Saturday with a wet pole lap just ahead of Daniel Ricciardo, his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg, and McLaren new boy Kevin Magnussen. Ricciardo’s team mate and 4-time world champion Sebastian Vettel couldn’t get out of Q2 and languished in 13th on the grid.

Read more on Practice and Qualifying here.

RACE DAY

After months of waiting, it was finally time to race. At 5pm local time in Melbourne, the cars lined up and took off for the first formation lap of a new era. Romain Grosjean did not, as he started from the pit lane, but he was soon joined by not one, but two Marussia cars. First, Chilton stalled before the formation lap, and then Bianchi did the same, forcing another. After much deliberation, the field was ready for the off. Bianchi and Chilton both got going; Chilton was able to join the back of the pack, but Bianchi was 7 laps down before he even started.

At the start, Hamilton bogged down and had a slow getaway, immediately succumbing to Ricciardo, and Rosberg who swept into the lead. Further back, Magnussen nearly made contact with Alonso, but where ‘K-Mag’ failed, Kobayashi did not. The Japanese driver hadn’t driven in F1 since Brazil 2012, and on his return he clouted the back of Raikkonen, and then Massa. Kimi continued, but Massa and Kobayashi were out on the spot, beached in the gravel with broken suspension. Later investigation would find a KERS problem caused Kobayashi to lose braking power, hence propelling him into Massa. After the race, Kobayashi was not given any penalty or fine for his actions, due to the mechanical failure.

Kobayashi was quick to admit to his fault, stating:
“It was all my fault, there was no heat in the tyres, not enough warming up. The tyres were so cold, due to the extra formation lap”

Massa concurred, and felt that Kobayashi deserved swift punishment:
“It’s difficult to find a word to describe what he did, trying to brake at 50m [from the corner] is impossible. What he did in this race is not different to Grosjean in Spa 2012, he needs a race ban. That’s what the stewards need to do.”

As the first lap developed, it was clear that Hamilton and Vettel were not in a good way whatsoever. Hamilton was passed easily by Magnussen and Hulkenberg, and duly told to retire by his team. He was then informed to continue, but a misfiring engine (thought to be running on just 5 cylinders) ended his race, and he parked up with just 4 laps completed.

One World Champion was out, and merely a lap later, so was another. Vettel had absolutely no power coming from his new ERS unit. New Formula One cars are really hybrids, a mixture of electrical energy and an internal combustion engine, and so without any electrical power, his RB10 was little more than a mobile chicane; he too had to park up in the garage.

A highly-spirited Valtteri Bottas was scything through the field. He felt he could have done better in qualifying and duly made progress at the expense of new boy Daniil Kvyat on Lap 3. Not content with passing one Toro Rosso, he made a move on the other, relegating Vergne to 8th. Bottas then went on to snatch 6th from Raikkonen, before a gentle skim with the wall at Turn 10 popped his rear-right tyre off the rim. The carcass of the tyre came to a rest safely off the racing line, but the wheel rim broke in a dangerous place. He was lucky to damage his tyre, and not his suspension.

This triggered the only Safety Car of the race, so that the shards of Williams could be safely retrieved. The Safety Car period gave a chance for pit stops; Rosberg, Ricciardo, Magnussen, and Hulkenberg to name just a few of the opportunists.

When the flags went green again Bottas wasted no time making up ground, immediately pouncing on Gutierrez and Maldonado. The situation worsened for Maldonado as his team mate Grosjean capitalised on his slow pace, however it was little consolation for the team. This time last year they were leading the race with Kimi Raikkonen, and now they were propping up the rest of the field as back-markers.

The final two nails in the coffin hammered home soon after – Maldonado’s retirement came about on Lap 31, after his heat energy recovery system (or MGU-H to give it its technical name) failed. Grosjean would suffer a similar fate on Lap 45, losing the use of his MGU-K, which is the braking energy recovery system. Marcus Ericsson joined both Lotus drivers on the sidelines to make it a double-retirement for Caterham, too. A miserable weekend for both teams.

After early retirements and chaos, the race settled down a bit, until Jean-Eric Vergne was overpowered by the flying Finns of Bottas and Raikkonen. Raikkonen’s overtake was rather mundane, but Bottas’ was more dramatic, only coming about due to the Toro Rosso nearly spinning into the wall on the final corner.

The two Finns had a fight of their own; for several laps Bottas stared at Raikkonen’s rear wing, but when the Ferrari man made a mistake going into turn 9, Valtteri swept through. The sheer speed of the Williams was clear – could Bottas have scored a podium without the wall kiss?

The last few laps were filled with two chases – the battle for 2nd, with Magnussen chasing Ricciardo, and the fight for 6th, with Bottas pursuing Nico Hulkenberg. The McLaren rookie couldn’t quite get the better of the local hero, but Bottas – who surely had the most exciting race of the day – managed to sneak past at turn 1 and seize 6th place.

Rosberg came home to take his fourth career win, and rallied by his adoring home crowd, Ricciardo chased him for his first ever podium, an achievement equaled by Kevin Magnussen. In fact, Magnussen has done exactly what Lewis Hamilton did in his first McLaren race in 2007 – qualified 4th and finished 3rd.

DANIEL DISQUALIFIED

After the race, an FIA investigation found that Car number 3, Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull-Renault, was not compliant with Technical Regulation 5.1.4 , which says fuel flow can only be 100kg per hour, and no more. Charlie Whiting stated that anyone breaching this would be seriously dealt with, and though the team are appealing the decision, it is unlikely to be successful.

Daniil Kvyat scored a point on his debut as well, finishing 10th, and with it claiming the record of youngest driver to ever score a point. At 19 years, 324 days, he beats Sebastian Vettel’s record from the US Grand Prix 2007, where he scored a point aged 19 years and 349 days. He’s also the first driver to go directly from GP3 to F1, bypassing GP2. Ricciardo’s DSQ means that Kvyat now scores two points for the race.

FINISHING POSITIONS

1. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes AMG
2. Kevin Magnussen, McLaren
3. Jenson Button, McLaren
4. Fernando Alonso, Ferrari
5. Valtteri Bottas, Williams
6. Nico Hulkenberg, Force India
7. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari
8. Jean-Eric Vergne, Toro Rosso
9. Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso
10. Sergio Perez, Force India
11. Adrian Sutil, Sauber
12. Esteban Gutierrez, Sauber
13. Max Chilton, Marussia

Out/Unclassified (Problem in brackets)
Jules Bianchi, Marussia (+8 Laps)
Romain Grosjean, Lotus (MGU-K)
Pastor Maldonado, Lotus (MGU-H)
Marcus Ericsson, Caterham (Oil Pressure)Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull (MGU-K)
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes (Misfiring Engine)
Felipe Massa, Williams (Collision)
Kamui Kobayashi, Caterham (Collision)
Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull (DISQUALIFIED)

The next race in is Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on March 30.

For more F1 insight, opinion, and updates, check out @CGEustice on Twitter.

Hamilton grabs Pole as new turbo era dawns | Saturday Scenario

Lewis Hamilton clinched the first Pole Position of the Season in fine style in Melbourne, inching ahead of local hero and Red Bull new blood Daniel Ricciardo with a time of 1:44:231. The biggest shock was that 4-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel could not do better than an unlucky 13th place.

After what was a very trying Friday, Saturday brought with it even more uncertainty and unpredictability. Friday’s timing sheets were largely dominated by the Mercedes teams and Fernando Alonso, and Practice 3 saw a similar status quo established.

PRACTICE 3

Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg putting in an effort of 1:29:375 to get the fastest time of the session; his nearest challenger was Jenson Button, 1.4 seconds down the road. Alonso was next, pushing the Ferrari to its limits to contend with the Mercedes runners. Daniel Ricciardo also threw himself into the mix, placing fifth. Nico Hulkenberg followed him, and with Sergio Perez in 9th, it was a solid morning for the Indian team.

So, the general pecking order seems to be Mercedes-powered cars, with a smattering of Red Bulls and Ferraris. However, those with the Renault power engine are still facing trouble. Both Caterham drivers had to replace their Energy Stores (batteries) after FP2, and they only have 5 of those per season. Lotus had no change in fortune, with Maldonado bringing out the yellow flag at the end of FP3 due to an off, and Grosjean suffering a misfiring engine. The Frenchman was clearly disgruntled, remarking “nothing is solved!” to his race engineer Ayao Komatsu.

Vettel only struggled to 11th on the Medium tyre in FP3. He looked like he would improve on the Soft tyre, but during his quick lap, he suffered horrendous oversteer, thought to be due to a poorly-chosen torque setting, and so he abandoned it.

Little else happened in the session, although Jule Bianchi put in a decent effort to put his Marussia P14. However, this was helped by the non-runners of Grosjean, Bottas and Gutierrez, the latter two of whom will face 5-place grid penalties. Bottas’ gearbox needed replacing due to wear, and so did Gutierrez, but his malady was because of the ECU on the car failing and breaking it.

QUALIFYING 1

In the first session – now 18 minutes long instead of 20 – everyone was eager to get out, with all but one of the 22 cars on track. The absentee just happened to be Sebastian Vettel, who did his customary ‘wait-and-scare-em’ lap. He was fortunate not to scare himself, as he skimmed the wall at turn 10, but the lap fell short of his old standards and his time, though sufficient for Q2, was in the midfield. Ricciardo and Magnussen set the pace, and both Lotus drivers slid off the track a few times. The Lotus duo propped up the field, highlighting the team’s troubles once more. Rain fell during the last few minutes of the session, and curtailed running for everyone. The only person to brave it on the Intermediate tyres was Esteban Gutierrez, but with 19th place and a 5-place grid penalty, it was clearly just a reconnaissance lap, rather than any sort of competitive attempt.

Out: Chilton, Bianchi, Gutierrez, Ericsson, Grosjean, Maldonado.

QUALIFYING 2

With soggy tarmac thanks to Q1, most driver took a set of Intermediate tyres, although Kobayashi and Kvyat thought that the wet tyres would be worth a shot. However they soon replaced them. The track began to improve as the rain temporarily backed off, with Williams, Mercedes and Ferrari trading fastest laps. With just seconds to go, Kimi Raikkonen worsened his difficult Ferrari comeback by binning the F14T in the wall at Turn 3. This meant several driver had to slow down. One such driver was Sebastian Vettel, and unthinkably, the World Champion was out in Q2, the first time he’s failed to make the Shoot-out since Belgium 2012. Some massive scalps fell here, including Raikkonen, and Jenson Button too.

Out: Button, Raikkonen, Vettel, Sutil, Perez, Kobayashi

QUALIFYING 3

It rained more between the two sessions, and Wet tyres were the only way to go. Ever the contrarian, Alonso chose to put on Intermediates instead, and everyone else soon followed. In a session with so many young or less-competitive drivers (based on old form and previous seasons) only a few well-established names remained. Massa threatened the top of sheets all weekend but he only managed 9th place. The Brazilian almost threw his car into the wall at the super-fast curve between turns 10 and 11, but where Felipe failed, Daniil Kvyat succeeded, chipping away his front wing against the barrier.

It looked like Rosberg would be at the top as well, but when local boy Daniel Ricciardo seized the top spot for a matter of seconds, the crowd went completely manic, easily cheering louder than the decidedly quiet V6 engines. Lewis Hamilton made it slightly less sweet for the young Aussie when he took Pole for himself. However, considering Vettel’s demise and the relative pace during testing, it was a remarkable achievement for the youngster, especially considering his debut for the team. Hamilton’s pole puts him on equal terms with Nigel Mansell in terms of number of starts from that position, with 32.

THE GRID
Top 10

1) Hamilton, Mercedes AMG
2) Ricciardo, Red Bull
3) Rosberg, Mercedes AMG
4) Magnussen, McLaren
5) Alonso, Ferrari
6) Vergne, Toro Rosso
7) Hulkenberg, Force India
8) Kvyat, Toro Rosso
9) Massa, Williams
10) Bottas, Williams (Will star 15th due to gearbox change)

Eliminated in Q2

11) Button, McLaren
12) Raikkonen, Ferrari
13) Vettel, Red Bull
14) Perez, Force India
15) Sutil, Sauber
16) Kobayashi, Caterham

Eliminated in Q1

17) Chilton, Marussia
18) Bianchi, Marussia
19) Gutierrez, Sauber (Will start 22nd due to gearbox change)
20) Ericsson, Caterham
21) Grosjean, Lotus
22) Maldonado, Lotus

The race will begin at 6am UK time tomorrow on Sunday, March 16.