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Qualifying analysis - McLaren the team to beat 17 Mar 2012

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4-27.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, 17 March 2012 Romain Grosjean (FRA) Lotus E20.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, 17 March 2012 Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 W03.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, 17 March 2012 Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB8.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, 17 March 2012 Pastor Maldonado (VEN) Williams FW34.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, 17 March 2012 Paul di Resta (GBR) Force India VJM05.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, 17 March 2012 Jean-Eric Vergne (FRA) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR7.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, 17 March 2012 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari F2012.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, 17 March 2012 Sergio Perez (MEX), Sauber F1 Team C31.
Formula One World Championship, Australian Grand Prix, Rd1, Qualifying Day, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, 17 March 2012 Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Caterham CT01.Vitaly Petrov (RUS) Caterham CT01.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, 17 March 2012 Charles Pic (FRA) Marussia F1 Team MR01.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, 17 March 2012 Pedro De La Rosa (ESP) HRT Formula One Team HRT F112.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, 17 March 2012 Pirelli Tyres.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Preparations, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, 15 March 2012

McLaren clinched the front row of the Melbourne grid with ease on Saturday, with Lewis Hamilton taking pole position ahead of team mate Jenson Button. Behind the McLaren duo, Lotus’s Romain Grosjean and Mercedes’ Michael Schumacher impressed in their 2012 charges to make up the second row. Red Bull and Ferrari, meanwhile, were left disappointed. We take a team-by-team look at how all the runners performed…

McLaren
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 24.922s, P1
Jenson Button, 1m 25.074s, P2

Hamilton got in the pluperfect lap to grab pole by a comfortable margin, and had no need of a second run when it became clear that Button’s smooth riposte was just going to fall short. The silver cars from Woking looked superbly balanced, and the air of optimism and delight within the team was tangible after a winter of maximum effort.

Lotus
Romain Grosjean, 1m 25.302s, P3
Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 27.758s, P18, will start P17

Third place on the grid was a massive boost for Grosjean, and team principal Eric Boullier who had championed his cause. Grosjean made maximum use of the E20, which confirmed the promise it had shown in testing, and thoroughly deserved his position. Raikkonen, meanwhile, thought he had another lap after making a mistake on the medium Pirellis, but discovered that his maths was faulty and missed the Q1 cut.

Mercedes
Michael Schumacher, 1m 25.336s, P4
Nico Rosberg, 1m 25.686s, P7

Mercedes were a little disappointed to miss out on the pole that at one stage seemed within their reach, but Schumacher reminded everyone that the step in performance was significant compared to 2011. He was happy with fourth, while Rosberg had to make do with seventh after making a small error in Turn Three.

Red Bull
Mark Webber, 1m 25.651s, P5
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 25.668s, P6

This time there was no magic bullet in the locker as Red Bull struggled in qualifying and were unable to make their usual leap forwards in Q3. Webber said he was happy with his Q3 lap, especially as his KERS system wasn’t working, with a resultant negative effect on the rhythm of the lap. Vettel had lost time spinning off in FP3, and there was a hint of desperation in his driving which saw him make an error in Q3 which he suggested could have cost him a couple of grid positions.

Williams
Pastor Maldonado, 1m 25.908s, P8
Bruno Senna, 1m 26.663s, P14

This was a great boost for Williams after the winter of hard work to eradicate memories of 2011, Maldonado did a strong lap for eighth place, while Senna admitted that he didn’t get a great Q1 lap.

Force India
Nico Hulkenberg, 1m 26.451s, P9
Paul di Resta, 1m 27.086s, P15

Hulkenberg got his Force India racing career off to a strong start with ninth place, after some initial doubts about their ability to make Q3. Di Resta admitted that he never quite got things together in Q1, and never quite got his tyres up to optimum working temperature during his out lap.

Toro Rosso
Daniel Ricciardo, No time, P10
Jean-Eric Vergne, 1m 26.429s, P11

Toro Rosso was one of the happy camps after qualifying, as Ricciardo achieved the aim of a top 10 grid place and Vergne missed one by a fraction. Neither driver had any real problems, and as the Australian took his best-ever grid place, the Frenchman was satisfied with 11th on his debut but also a tad disappointed to miss the top 10 by a tenth.

Ferrari
Fernando Alonso, 1m 26.494s, P12
Felipe Massa, 1m 27.497s, P16

Ferrari had one of their most disastrous qualifying sessions. They expected to struggle in the dry, but their problems were compounded when Alonso spun early in Q2 and eventually ended up 12th, and Massa was unable to get within a second of his team mate’s time as he struggled all day with his F2012’s balance. The Spaniard got a wheel on the grass and went off backwards, and was angry that the marshals could not push him several miles out of the gravel as he’d kept the engine running.

Sauber
Kamui Kobayashi, 1m 26.590s, P13
Sergio Perez, No time, P17, will start P22

Sauber ended Q1 first and fifth courtesy of Kobayashi and Perez, but in Q2 the Mexican’s gearbox started to play up on downshifts, so he was unable to record a time. To make matters worse, a subsequent change of gearbox resulted in a five-place grid penalty. Kobayashi, meanwhile, started to struggle for grip, and dropped down to 13th.

Caterham
Heikki Kovalainen, 1m 28.679s, P19, will start P18
Vitaly Petrov, 1m 29.018s, P20, will start P19

This was a very disappointing day for Caterham as they ended up in their usual 2011 positions. Kovalainen nevertheless thought his CT-01 was better than it had been in FP3 and said an HRT cost him six-tenths of a second. Petrov lost time in FP3 with a hydraulic problem, and never really made it up.

Marussia
Timo Glock, 1m 30.923s, P21, will start P20
Charles Pic, 1m 31.670s, P22, will start P21

Glock worked hard on setting up his car throughout FP3, and said all the myriad changes proved to be the right ones. There is an air of optimism here as they work with a solid platform from which they can progress. Pic did well, especially on his first Q1 run which aced Glock.

HRT
Pedro de la Rosa, 1m 33.495s, P23
Narain Karthikeyan, 1m 33.643s, P24

HRT said that practice and qualifying were their pre-season tests, and struggled to learn the right things to do to the new F112. Both drivers received reprimands for hindering, and after failing to beat the 107 percent qualifying rule HRT applied to the FIA for permission to race. This was denied.

Pirelli
The tyre supplier expects drivers to make between two and three pit stops during Sunday’s 58-lap race. They believe the soft tyre will last for up to 20 laps and the medium tyre will perform for up to 25 laps.

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