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Qualifying analysis - Mercedes in a class of their own

14 Mar 2015

Track conditions were relatively consistent in FP3 and qualifying, though a change of wind direction caused a few problems with set-up for some, as did a cooling track temperature as the day progressed. Mercedes, however, had no such issues…

Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton, 1m 26.327s, P1
Nico Rosberg, 1m 26.921s, P2

Hamilton’s fourth pole in Australia and the 39th of his career looked easy, such was his confidence in the Mercedes F1 W06 once set-up changes had enhanced its handing and balance. He looked good all day, and the team were delighted at their margin of nearly 1.4s over their closest challenger. Rosberg struggled with a brief engine cut-out in Q2 and running wide on his first run in Q3, but said that he just didn’t really get hooked up when it mattered even though he felt his pace was okay. On this form, only unreliability can stop them tomorrow.

Williams

Felipe Massa, 1m 27.718s, P3
Valtteri Bottas, 1m28.087s, P6

Williams played second fiddle to Ferrari for a while until Massa got a great final run together to jump up to third. Bottas should have been there too having saved a second set of soft Pirellis for Q3, but a major tank-slapper coming out of the final corner lost him crucial time and left him sixth.

Ferrari

Sebastian Vettel, 1m 27.757s, P4
Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 27.790s, P5

Ferrari proved that their winter test pace was genuine in practice and qualifying, and at one stage Vettel looked a possible candidate for the front row. Then Rosberg got his act together, and when Vettel failed to improve on his second Q3 run he got jumped by Massa. Raikkonen was unhappy on his first run, but got it together on the second to back Vettel strongly. They will be in the thick of things with Williams and possibly Red Bull for best-of-the-rest behind Mercedes.

Red Bull

Daniel Ricciardo, 1m 28.329s, P7
Daniil Kvyat, 1m 29.070s, P13

Red Bull had another tale of woe, as Kvyat had an engine problem in FP3 and gearbox and handling troubles in Q1 and Q2. Ricciardo’s car stopped on the pit late entry in the morning but got going again after being wheeled back by marshals. In Q3 he pushed the RB11 to its limit as he used the soft tyre for the first time. He said he was happy with seventh, which he felt was reasonable reward for his effort.

Toro Rosso

Carlos Sainz Jnr, 1m 28.510s, P8
Max Verstappen, 1m 28.868s, P12

Sainz and Verstappen were never very far apart and both rookies were pushing hard enough to have the odd off-track moment. In the end Sainz retained the upper hand, albeit only just, and Verstappen’s chances were dimmed in Q2 when he had a major wobble on his final lap. Overall, it was a strong effort from the team, which bodes well for points finishes in the race.

Lotus

Romain Grosjean, 1m 28.560s, P9
Pastor Maldonado, 1m 29.480s, P10

Lotus’s Mercedes-inspired upswing continued as both cars made the top 10. Grosjean was really happy with the progress they are making, and could have been seventh with just a small improvement. Maldonado however felt he lost a little pace in Q3.

Sauber

Felipe Nasr, 1m 28.800s, P11
Marcus Ericsson, 1m 31.376s, P16

With all the hoopla over the ‘will he race, won’t he race’ Van der Garde situation finally resolved the previous night, Sauber could focus on racing. Nasr looked good all day, and the Brazilian rookie did a great job to plant his C34 in 11th place on the grid, having missed the Q3 cut by hundredths of a second. Ericsson struggled with his car’s handling, and lacked confidence in it under braking.

Force India

Nico Hulkenberg, 1m 29.208s, P14
Sergio Perez, 1m 29.209ss, P15

Both drivers were philosophical about missing out on Q3 by half a second, as a thousandth of a second separated them. Both still fancy their chances of finishing in the points in the race, however.

McLaren

Jenson Button, 1m 31.422, P17
Kevin Magnussen, 1m 32.037s, P18

As expected, qualifying was a disaster for McLaren which left the two MP4-30s on the back row of the 18-car grid. The last time McLarens started so far back was Malaysia in 2010 when heavy rain left Button and Hamilton 17th and 20th. Before that, John Watson and Niki Lauda famously qualified 22nd and 23rd for McLaren at Long Beach before finishing a spectacular 1-2 finish in the race, but no such miracle can be expected tomorrow. The car has yet to complete a race distance in testing…

Marussia

Will Stevens, No time
Roberto Merhi, No time

Once again the team were unable to run as they continued to hone their software integration, and therefore despite a valiant effort, they won’t race on Sunday.