The drivers and teams report back on all the action from final practice and a much-anticipated qualifying at the Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix 2019...
What the teams said - Qualifying in Australia
Quite simply, breathtaking. No one quite knew if Mercedes or Ferrari would come out on top today, and the Silver Arrows answered that question in emphatic style with Hamilton taking pole in a front-row lock out for the team. The reigning world champion was seven-tenths of a second ahead of the Ferrari driver seen as his biggest threat this year, with Vettel having to settle for third. A sixth straight pole here might look good on paper, but Hamilton knows the real work needs to be done tomorrow.
Lewis Hamilton, 1st, 1:20.486
"I feel so fortunate to be in the position I'm in today. We had no idea that we'd have this gap to the others - we thought we were behind, we thought it was going to be a push, so we gave it absolutely everything and more to arrive here with the best possible package and delivery. Valtteri and I have been pushing the car to its absolute limits. We haven't massively changed the car; it's almost the same set-up we had in Barcelona, so this gap was really surprising to see. This is the first time we've unleashed the full potential of the car and I'm so happy to have a car that I can fight with. This is a really great start to the new season and it puts us in a good position for the fight tomorrow."
Valtteri Bottas, 2nd, 1:20.598
"I really enjoyed driving today, I was in a good flow and usually when you enjoy driving it shows on the time sheets as well. My first lap in Q3 was pretty good and I wanted to improve in my second lap, but I was stuck in traffic on my out lap, so my tyres were just a bit too cold at the start of the lap. Lewis did put in a fantastic lap, but I think without the traffic it would have been a close fight for pole today. We didn't expect to be this strong - we're happy, but frankly quite surprised to see that gap. We came here, not knowing where we'd be and actually thought we'd be a bit behind Ferrari. But we shouldn't underestimate them; they looked very strong in winter testing and have a quick car, even if they struggled today. At the same time our team has done a really good job between Barcelona and here, constantly improving the car. Today was good fun, we both got some nice laps in, so let's hope we will have a good Sunday as well. It's a decent run into Turn 1, so hopefully I can get a good start, build a gap to the cars behind and have a good fight with Lewis."
James Allison, Technical Director
"Although the stopwatch yesterday told us that we were quick, we also knew from our running in Barcelona during the winter the threat from Ferrari was very real - and we believe it still is - so it is with a mixture of relief, surprise and delight that both our cars claimed front row positions today, confirming yesterday's performance and setting us fair for a decent Sunday. However, we know our opponents are strong because we have seen it, so we will make sure we keep our guard up and concentrate on the small things that can catch us out - because we know that if we blink, our rivals will take it. Nonetheless, I am delighted for the whole team, for Lewis for his well-earned pole position and also for Valtteri, who really made Lewis fight for it today."
Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
"I'm overwhelmed to see both our cars on the front row. The team has done a great job in the past weeks: after a difficult time in testing, especially in the first week in Spain, we have turned over every stone to find answers, to try and understand the car better. And it came together when it mattered for us today. But one result is not a reason to get carried away: not only is this circuit a bit of an outlier when it comes to performance, but we have strong rivals in Ferrari and Red Bull, and we know from hard experience in the past two years that the racing is done on Sunday and that's the day that counts. For today, though, we can be happy with what we delivered - the team for a slick job in the garage, Lewis for his 84th pole and Valtteri for showing all his speed and taking a very close P2 on the grid. Now we turn our attention to the race."
Ferrari were the team to beat after Barcelona and accused of sandbagging yesterday, but when push came to shove they couldn’t match Mercedes for pace when it mattered. The gap to the Silver Arrows ahead was sizeable, but on a positive note the Scuderia do look good on long-run pace and potentially kinder to the tyres than Mercedes. But regardless of the result tomorrow, there will be some head scratching over where that time gap came from, and how it can be addressed before the next race.
Sebastian Vettel, 3rd, 1:21.190
“Starting tomorrow’s race from third is not too bad and the car is ok, even if it’s not exactly how we would like it and we are not as fast as we wanted to be. But we’ll start from there and see what we can bring home. This track is unique and conditions are different to what we experienced in testing. We have definitely improved the car overnight, but obviously not enough to be in front of everyone. In tomorrow’s race we’ll have time to understand the car further. We will race as hard as we can and see where that takes us. After all, we are just 16 metres behind pole position.”
Charles Leclerc, 5th, 1:21.442
“I can’t say I’m happy with this qualifying result. After a good Q1 and a very good Q2, in Q3, especially on my second run, I made a few too many mistakes, especially in the first sector and I was unable to improve. I will try to learn from this and to prepare as well as possible for the race. As for the gap to our main competitors, I have to admit that maybe we had expected it to be smaller, even if this is an unusual track which often throws up a different order to what we can see on a more traditional track. On our side, I think there is still room to work on the car and the race is tomorrow and will be pretty long, so I am still aiming for a podium. I will definitely have to get a perfect start, because overtaking is far from easy here.”
Mattia Binotto, Team Principal
“We can’t say this was the result we were expecting, but we are well aware that Albert Park is not an ideal track for us, as its characteristics do not suit our car that well. Of course, we must improve, but we have gathered a great deal of information to identify the areas on which we must work. As usual, Seb showed that he knows how to use every centimetre of the track and Charles got through his first real test, a few little errors notwithstanding. Ahead of us, we have another 20 qualifying sessions and 21 races, so it’s a long game and we’re ready to play it.”
A mixed bag down at Red Bull, who left Gasly sitting in the garage in Q1 on a rapidly evolving track. A slew of improvements later and the Frenchman was out in P17, with an uphill battle to collect points tomorrow at a track that isn’t the easiest to overtake on. Verstappen fortunately made it to Q3 and split the two Ferraris to boot in a solid performance that leaves him right in the thick of the action. Is victory achieveable? The Dutchman has to get past an obdurate Vettel before he can even begin to contemplate how to beat the Silver Arrows...
Max Verstappen, 4th, 1:21.320
“I am pretty happy with the way qualifying went. After some of the difficulties we’ve had this weekend, especially this morning, I was a bit worried but the guys here and back at the factory have been working really well together to find a good set-up and I think we can be pleased with the second row. It was really tight in Q1 and on a street circuit like this you really have to nail the first run. I was lucky to have that second lap on the board where I improved but it was really tight, especially as we only used one set of tyres, unlike many others. I definitely felt the extra performance coming from the qualifying mode which is also very pleasing. It has been tricky finding a good balance and we are of course not where we want to be in terms of the gap, but we also have to be realistic and happy with this grid position. Fourth is better than we expected going into qualifying. It’s difficult to say where we will be tomorrow and I didn’t get to do a full long run on Friday, but it looks like the tyres are holding on quite well, so as long as we get a clean start, we will find out what we can really do.”
Pierre Gasly, 17th, 1:23.020
“I had a bit of traffic in Turn 1 but apart from that, I was quite happy with my Q1 lap. We went for one run whilst most others went for two and it cost us. I think we’ve been quite optimistic as we didn’t expect such track evolution and the pack to be so close. We’re not exactly where we’d like to be but session after session we’re going in the right direction. There were not many overtakes at last year’s race so starting from where we are, it’s going to be difficult but we will of course try and make it into the points. It’s a tough day today but we need to stay positive. For me, tomorrow will be all about gaining experience in the car and recovering positions.”
Christian Horner, Team Principal
“That was a very strong session from Max and an impressive lap in Q3 to qualify fourth. Splitting the Ferraris was an excellent effort on his last run and he’s getting our new power unit partnership off to a great start with Honda’s highest qualifying position in the current V6 era. Unfortunately, Pierre, after a strong first lap didn’t improve on his second flying lap and with the circuit evolving and other cars electing to take another set of tyres, he just missed the cut. Whilst that’s hugely frustrating for him, I’m sure he will recover and race hard from there tomorrow.”
The best consolation of not making the top 10 showdown is free tyre choice, and for that Renault are perfectly positioned with their drivers in 11th and 12th. Hulkenberg had to abort his flying lap in Q2 with a syncing issue, while Ricciardo couldn’t extract enough pace from his R.S.19 to progress. Nonetheless, a double points finish is on the cards with the Renault looking decent over longer runs.
Nico Hulkenberg, 11th, 1:22.562
“Making Q3 was definitely possible today. It’s unfortunate that we had a small problem, which cost us a shot at the top 10. I lost a bit of time on my first lap in Q2 through traffic and a lock-up, but we showed the pace was there for a strong result. We’re competitive. We know it’s close and small margins make a big difference. We’re not in bad shape ahead of tomorrow and a strong race from eleventh on the grid is possible. The car felt good with long-run pace on Friday and I’ve felt comfortable in the car all weekend. We have every chance to pick up points tomorrow.”
Daniel Ricciardo, 12th, 1:22.570
“I’m clearly disappointed not to make Q3, especially as it was just half a tenth and that’s something I can find in myself – I lost a bit of time in the first sector on the last run. We had the potential to make Q3 so when you don’t do the perfect lap, it’s frustrating. As expected the midfield is really close but I’m feeling optimistic for a strong result tomorrow. I always want to do well at home, but we have to keep a cool head, have a good start and then attack when necessary.”
Alan Permane, Sporting Director
“We had hoped to get both cars through to the top ten so the overall result is really disappointing. We had an electrical problem on Nico’s car in his last run in Q2 and he was unable to complete a final run. Without this, we are very sure he would have made it through to Q3 and quite far into the top ten. Daniel didn’t improve on his second run. We thought he had another couple of tenths, which also would have put him safely into the top ten. We therefore have a little bit of work to do tomorrow, but with the good long run pace we demonstrated yesterday, we are aiming to make up for today and get both cars well into the points.”
Haas were after a slice of redemption here this weekend, such was the bitter taste in the mouth after last year’s pit stop bungles. They have got off to a perfect start, both cars in the top 10 and Grosjean ‘best of the rest’ in P6, narrowly ahead of his team mate. Double points will be the aim for the American team, who know they have some fight for the coveted P4 in the constructor’s championship this year.
Romain Grosjean, 6th, 1:21.826
“P6 on the grid, that’s good. It’s been a good day, especially with Kevin (Magnussen) up there too. The car’s been performing well, on a track that we’ve always been competitive at, so that’s good. It’s the first time we’ve really run the full qualifying set-up, so that’s been interesting for us to discover a bit more. The car worked well, and we’re pretty much where we thought we were. There are maybe some surprises in the pecking order, but I’m very happy with our day. I think our race pace looks as good as we did in qualifying. We’ll keep pushing, keep delivering, and hopefully we’ll score some strong points to start the year.”
Kevin Magnussen, 7th, 1:22.099
“I didn’t quite have the perfect qualifying session on my side, I made a mistake on my first tire in Q1, which meant I had to use another set, leaving me with only one new set for Q3. That’s my bad, but fortunately the car was very good. I’m very proud of the team with what they’ve done to put such a good car on track again this year. They did a great job incorporating the new rule changes to allow us to maintain a competitive car. We’re not even that far from the guys at the front, we’re not fighting them, but we’re not too far. Hopefully we can build on this tomorrow and score some good points.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“It was a very good qualifying. The team worked very well over the winter to get us prepared. We simply executed today with what the team has done over the last ten months to develop the car and through testing. It’s a very good day for Rich Energy Haas F1 Team, thanks go to the whole team.”
Perez was despondent about his team’s chances yesterday, but what a difference 24 hours makes. He surprised himself by making it all the way to Q3, running just the once because of a shortage of tyres. The Mexican qualified P10 at a track where he has a handy record of finishing every race he’s started. Stroll didn’t fare so well, eliminated in Q1 and will have a difficult time to make progress in a congested midfield.
Sergio Perez, 10th, 1:22.781
“Making the top ten is a great way to start the season. We did a great job throughout qualifying and I was really pleased with my lap in Q2. The key today was to avoid mistakes and be consistent. It will be interesting to see where we stand in the race but it’s never easy to overtake on this track so starting in the top 10 is important. Hopefully we can hold position and make up some ground at the start. As I always say, it doesn’t matter where you start the season, but where you finish. There is great potential in this car and I’m confident we can keep improving as the year goes on.”
Lance Stroll, 16th, 1:23.017
“My best lap today was affected by traffic. I came across Grosjean, who was on an out lap, at turn nine and it definitely cost me a few tenths. It’s a real shame because I really felt good with the car today and we had the speed to progress to at least Q2. All I can do now is try and make up some positions at the start and see how things play out in the race. I think we look quite competitive with our race pace so we can still come away with a good result.”
Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal & CEO
“Qualifying was very tight, just as we expected, but we made Q3 with Sergio delivering some clean and tidy laps. Lance’s session was compromised by Grosjean staying on the racing line on his slow lap, which cost Lance a few tenths and the chance to progress to Q2. With such a tight midfield, we can’t afford to give anything away and those tenths proved costly. We expect things to be just as close tomorrow. Our race pace looks consistent based on the long runs we did on Friday, but this race is all about track position so a good opening lap will play a big part in our final result. Scoring points remains our target.”
Sainz was knocked out in Q1 after being unluckily impeded by Kubica, the Pole having suffered a puncture. Norris though, showed the potential of the MCL34 by making it all the way to Q3 and putting in an assured performance to bag P8 ahead of Raikkonen’s Alfa and Racing Point’s Perez. It was hard to believe this was his first F1 qualifying, such was the composure on show and the rookie will be after securing some points to cap off a perfect debut.
Carlos Sainz, 18th, 1:23.084
“I had unbelievable bad luck out there today. I was on a very good lap that would have got us into the top 10. Then I came across the Williams of Robert Kubica with a puncture in the last sector in the middle of the track at Turn 14, but I couldn’t avoid him and I dropped four tenths. It is what it is – I was in the wrong place at the wrong time – so it’s a shame.
“We definitely had the pace to get through into Q2. We had a margin to be even stronger in Q2, but it was all out of our control. Hopefully tomorrow our pace will be good for the race, and it’s positive to see the potential the car showed today. We know that qualifying is important here as it’s a difficult track to pass on, so P18 is a disappointing result. But, we need to stay positive and let’s see what we can do tomorrow.”
Lando Norris, 8th, 1:22.304
“I loved it but I’m not going to get carried away! I was very nervous at the start of the session with it being my first-ever F1 quali and never having been here before. But I managed to put the laps together today – the team were fantastic.
“Our aim was to get into Q2 but it turned out to be even better, and it’s a great confidence boost for everyone. It’s going to be a long, tough race and that’s what I must concentrate on now. Hopefully I can sleep okay.”
Gil de Ferran, Sporting Director
"It was a good day that could have been even better. Carlos definitely had enough pace to progress through qualifying. Unfortunately, he encountered traffic on his last run which sealed his fate and his lowly and undeserved qualifying position. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank our engine partner Renault and acknowledge the great job they did over the winter to deliver a competitive package.
“We are obviously all absolutely delighted with Lando’s performance in his first-ever Formula 1 qualifying session. He has been building up his pace all weekend with a great deal of control and discipline, and this afternoon was a deserved reward for his hard work.
“Today’s performance was also deserved reward for the whole McLaren team, who have worked tirelessly to prepare for this season. However, we’re only halfway through the battle and there is still a lot of work ahead of us, not only to try and bring home some points tomorrow, but throughout the season in our quest to continue moving forward. In closing, I’m pretty sure based on today’s qualifying session that Formula 1 fans can expect an unpredictable and thrilling Australian Grand Prix.”
Albon had a better day at the office than yesterday, keeping his STR14 pointed in the right direction and out-qualifying his more experienced team mate to boot. With two cars into Q2, it was a solid if unspectacular day for Toro Rosso. Can they sneak a point? It will be tricky but with Australia often throwing up a few surprises, don’t discount them just yet...
Daniil Kvyat, 15th, 1:22.774
“I’m happy with how the weekend went until qualifying. It was perfect until Q2 where things got a bit scrappy. I had a bit of traffic on the last lap when Sebastian went off the track. I’m not at all blaming him but I lost time there. We need to remain optimistic because we still have to extract everything from the car, otherwise the timesheets would surely be different. I think my lap from Q1 would have been enough for Q3, but if you do it once you need to be able to do it twice, so we will work to understand where it went a bit wrong. It’s really nice to be back pushing the car to the limit, I’ve enjoyed every lap this weekend - it’s been cool! I think we can try to recover a few positions tomorrow as our long runs didn’t look too bad and with good tyre management and strategy we’ll see where it will get us!”
Alex Albon, 13th, 1:22.636
“My qualifying started off okay. I did my first lap and when I got told of the lap times I saw how quick it is around here. I hooked it up on the second of the Q1 laps and fell into the rhythm - it took me all the way until qualifying to get there, but once you get the feel you gain confidence, because the grip is there as the track evolution is huge. I’m a bit gutted to miss out on Q3, we knew it was going to be close in winter testing, but it’s so tight in the midfield that you can’t afford to make any mistake! I’m happy with the lap I did, but on the other side a tenth or a tenth and a half quicker and I would have been in Q3! This track isn’t easy for overtaking, but maybe the new regulations will come into play and give us a chance to move up the field. Our long runs look pretty good - we’re close to the points so that’s the goal for tomorrow. I’ll be a bit nervous and I’m not sure if I’ll sleep too well tonight! I’m really looking forward to my first race in F1 and I’ll try to keep my nose clean and bring home a good result.”
Jody Egginton, Deputy Technical Director
“Today's sessions have again highlighted how very tight the midfield pack is, with small differences in lap time having quite big effects on final positions, so I expect we are not the only team being frustrated not to be starting further up the grid tomorrow.
“We had a straightforward final practice for Dany, with car balance in the ballpark and completing the normal fine-tuning to prepare for qualifying. Alex had a slightly more challenging FP3, but also made some steps to improve. Overall, both drivers headed into Qualifying with a reasonable baseline setup. Ultimately, it did not quite live up to our expectation of getting at least one car into Q3, as such we will be working hard to improve in order to be in the position to take this opportunity in the future. However, Alex has delivered a solid performance in his first F1 Qualifying, which is a further positive sign of his progress. Our long run pace during Friday was reasonable, so we will do our best to have both cars in contention to take any opportunity which may present itself in tomorrow's race.”
Toyoharu Tanabe, Honda F1 Technical Director
“It was good to get through the first qualifying session of the season without any difficulties on the PU side. The final result over the four cars had some positives and negatives. With Toro Rosso, we saw the potential of the STR14-Honda so far this weekend, but then both of them were a bit unlucky with traffic in Q2. It will be a long race tomorrow and we hope to get a good result for our first outing with Red Bull and also with our established partner Toro Rosso.”
All in all, a decent day out for the Alfa team, with Raikkonen showing his class in reaching Q3 and Giovinazzi a reasonable 14th with the bonus of free tyre choice for the race. Can they bring home some points? Raikkonen certainly has a good chance, especially if he can keep the Renault boys behind in the first stint.
Kimi Raikkonen, 9th, 1:22.314
“Am I happy? Yes and no. I’m a bit disappointed, as I think there is more in the car and we could have ended further up, but I never really put a lap together. Now let’s get through the first two corners of the race without incidents and then take it from there.”
Antonio Giovinazzi, 14th, 1:22.714
“The qualifying was ok. I put together quite a good lap in Q1. In Q2, the warm-up lap in my last run did not go as well. A small mistake costs you quite a bit of time in such a tight midfield. We have a good car and race pace and will have the chance to fight for points in the race tomorrow. The strategy will be important as it is quite challenging to overtake on this circuit. I will do my best to have a positive result for the team.”
Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal
“Overall, the qualifying was a good one. While Antonio showed a very strong performance in Q1, Kimi delivered a strong performance in Q2. Our pace has been promising so far and we are confident of our potential to have a good result in the race. The team is optimistic and collaborating well. We will push to bring home the first points of the season tomorrow.”
Kubica had a scruffy day, clipping the pit lane entry wall in practice and damaging the rear of his FW42, before doing the same thing out on track in qualifying and winding up with a puncture. Russell at least kept his Williams in one piece, but was still over a second off the pace of P18. Those two might be having a race-long intra-team battle for pride, but the maturity on show from their rookie driver is certainly one positive they can take forward.
Robert Kubica, 20th, 1:26.067
"It wasn’t the best start of the season especially because I am last on the grid. I made a mistake on the last run when I had a good feeling and could drive the car better. I apologise for that, but that is how it is. It has been a difficult situation, but I am back on the Formula One grid and I would like to thank everyone that has made it possible, as well as the team."
George Russell, 19th, 1:24.360
"It felt like a really good lap, driving round a mega track at full beans. I got in three tidy laps and I am happy with my own performance but obviously we are a team and we want to push for more. The guys around me, the engineers, and myself, we did a really great job to get everything out of the package we’ve got. All I can do is drive as fast as I can, and I felt like I did that."
Dave Robson, Senior Race Engineer
"We got through some good work last night building on the experiments we did yesterday. FP3 was good, with both drivers were reasonably happy with the car towards the end of that session. Going into qualifying the pace of the car was where we expected it to be, but nonetheless we did a good job getting everything out of it. George was pretty happy with the car throughout qualifying and made the most of what we had, steadily building up throughout Q1. It was an extremely good qualifying for his Formula One debut. Robert’s run plan was also to complete three runs in Q1, but was a real shame that he had a puncture on his final lap which meant we couldn’t get to see his ultimate time. He was a good step up when he got the problem, I have every reason to think that he would have been very close to George come the end. Overall a good day operationally for us considering the pace of the car, as we got everything that we could out of it. We are ready to build on that tomorrow and see whether some luck comes our way."
Mario Isola, Head of F1 and Car Racing
“As usual, the quickest times came at the end of each session, with track temperatures dropping all the time and plenty of action; underlining just how close the margins are at this first race of the season. The tyre performance was strong on each compound, with Ferrari showing plenty of speed on the medium in Q1 as well. With all three potential race strategies very close on paper, as usual it will come down to track temperature and degradation of the soft tyre in particular on race day. With higher temperatures, the degradation of the soft tyre also tends to be higher – pushing teams towards an earlier switch to a harder compound, or more than one stop.”