The starting grid is set for tomorrow’s Australia Grand Prix, and no team could be happier than Mercedes. The entirety of the qualifying session was filled with tension and last minute runs to secure a spot in Q2 and subsequently Q3. There were some surprise performances both good and bad that will help provide us with an idea how the race will unfold. Yet, teams and drivers will have the opportunity to change their fortunes throughout the race.
Lewis Hamilton set a record time of 1:20.486, which was a tenth faster than his teammate Valteri Bottas, and secured pole position for the first race of the season. The major surprise of the session was the gap between Mercedes and Ferrari. Vettel appeared as though he had a much easier time driving the car than Hamilton, who was constantly was fighting the car around the circuit, but nonetheless Vettel was about .700 seconds slower than Hamilton. Come tomorrow, Ferrari may be able to provide a greater challenge to Mercedes with race pace, but a masterful start from Vettel may be needed. After all, Vettel won last year in Melbourne even though Hamilton got the pole.
The two Haas drivers stamped their mark on the qualifying session with Grosjean finishing sixth and Magnussen qualifying seventh. Besides Mercedes and Ferrari, Haas were the only team to get both of their drivers in the top ten. They will be hoping to have a much better race than they did last year, and gain some needed points for a season that may turn out to be a dogfight amongst the midfield contenders.
Lando Norris was able to start his Formula 1 career on the right foot with an impressive qualifying finish of eighth on the grid. The McLaren driver out qualified his teammate Carlos Sainz, who was unable to get out of Q1 due to Kubica’s flat tire, which caused a yellow flag with no time remaining in the session. It is a more impressive result for Norris considering he was able to out qualify the Renault drivers, which is the works team for the Renault engine that McLaren uses. Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenburg were unable to make it into Q3 and Ricciardo will attempt to get up to the points positions at his home track.
Perhaps the most disappointing performance in the session belongs to Red Bull new boy, Pierre Gasly. Gasly’s failure to get out of Q1 was due to a strategic blunder. In the last few minutes of the first qualifying round, the track began to evolve at a rapid pace leading to Gasly’s first time being insufficient to move him on to Q2. Red Bull had set out to only use one set of tires for Q1, but the decision came back to haunt them in the end. Pierre will have it all to do tomorrow to drive himself into the points and compete with his teammate, Max Verstappen.
Tomorrow’s Grand Prix should provide great spectacle with many storylines developing from Qualifying. Will Ferrari find someone to put the challenge to Merecedes? Will Max Verstappen, who qualified on the second row, be able to throw his name in the hat for the win as well? Can Haas keep themselves up towards the front and be ready to pounce should an issue arise from one of the top teams? The race gets underway at 1:10am EST one ESPN2.
*Photo Credit- Unsplash: Puk Patrick
*Qualifying Results taken from F1.com