F1 2015: Australian Grand Prix Qualifying Recap

Lewis Hamilton {1:26.327} won pole for the 2015 Australian Grand Prix, dominating the rest of the field in a display of Mercedes speed. Teammate Nico Rosberg qualified second fastest with a sloppy  first lap losing the German time in the final session of qualifying and only one run at pole. Felipe Massa, Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen, and Valtteri Bottas rounded out the top six qualifiers.

Q2 proved to be a fight between sister teams Red Bull and Toro Rosso, as one driver from each moved on to Q2. Home favorite Daniel Ricciardo did so to qualify seventh, while teammate Daniil Kvyat managed only thirteenth. Carlos Sainz would qualify eighth, while Max Verstappen will start twelfth. In perhaps the most disappointing results, Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen dueled between themselves for an all McLaren back row. Manor did not participate in the qualifying sessions, and appeared unlikely to compete in the Grand Prix, running into trouble on many levels.

Qualifying Results for the 2015 Australian Grand Prix

DRIVER TEAM TIME
1.  Lewis Hamilton  Mercedes  1:26.327
2.  Nico Rosberg  Mercedes  1:26.921
3.  Felipe Massa  Williams  1:27.718
4.  Sebastian Vettel  Ferrari  1:27.757
5.  Kimi Raikkonen  Ferrari  1:27.790
6.  Valtteri Bottas  Williams  1:28.087
7.  Daniel Ricciardo  Red Bull  1:28.329
8.  Carlos Sainz  Toro Rosso  1:28.510
9.  Romain Grosjean  Lotus  1:28.560
10.  Pastor Maldonado  Lotus  1:29.480
Knocked Out in Q2
11.  Felipe Nasr  Sauber  1:28.800
12.  Max Verstappen  Toro Rosso  1:28.868
13.  Daniil Kvyat  Toro Rosso  1:29.070
14.  Nico Hulkenberg  Force India  1:29.208
15.  Sergio Perez  Force India  1:29.209
Knocked Out in Q1
16.  Marcus Ericsson  Sauber  1:31.376
17.  Jenson Button  McLaren  1:31.422
18.  Kevin Magnussen  McLaren  1:32.037
 Will Stevens  Manor Marussia  no time
 Roberto Merhi  Manor Marussia  no time

Though Rosberg {1:29.557} and Hamilton {+0.029s} led the rest of the field by more than a second at the end of the first practice of the new season, drama between Sauber and Giedo van der Garde overshadowed the action on the track. Bailiffs waited outside the gates, ready to seize the team’s equipment should the Australian judge hearing the contract dispute impound the cars. Neither of Sauber’s preferred drivers lapped in FP1, though grudgingly conciliatory efforts from Sauber held the judge’s hand on Friday. Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson ran in FP2, eleventh and fifteenth fastest of the sixteen cars running in that session.

Rosberg {1:27.697} and Hamilton {+0.1s} continued Mercedes’ apparent dominance in the afternoon, though Ferrari’s Vettel brought the field a tiny bit closer by leading much of the session with teammate Raikkonen also quick, even as times down the order spread out a bit. Magnussen stopped the session for seven minutes by crashing at T6. He was unhurt. Other drivers had moments as well as they began pushing harder for more speed.

Hamilton {1:27.867} set the fastest time in the final pre-qualifying session on Saturday, leading Vettel and Rosberg. Ferrari and Williams seemed most likely to be fighting over best of the rest as Red Bull struggled with engine issues. Manor used all three sessions as a pre-season test, without actually putting the cars on the circuit. The team struggled with software issues. On Saturday, van der Garde relinquished his legal claim to driving in Australia, though negotiations over the rest of the season continue.

{click through to see final times from FP1, FP2, and FP3}

Q1:
The eighteen minutes of Q1 began under sunny skies, with a stiff breeze snapping the flags around the circuit. Sainz led the way out in his Toro Rosso, followed by the Lotus duo of Maldonado and Grosjean. Nasr and Verstappen quickly joined the fray, with Ricciardo hoping to put his engine gremlins to rest. If one discounted the Manor drivers, more then half the drivers were lapping three minutes into the session. Raikkonen and Vettel used the soft tires first, without setting times with the medium compound Pirellis. Sainz {1:33.094} set the first time, only to have his teammate eclipse it. So too did Nasr. It would not long stand as a fast lap, with Mercedes beginning to lap as well.

The McLaren drivers also started directly on the softs. Raikkonen {1:30.188} put forth the early quick time, only to have Vettel take seven tenths off his fellow champion Ferrari driver. Five minutes into Q1, Vettel led Raikkonen, Bottas, Massa, and Nasr while Magnussen, Button, and Kvyat joined the Manor drivers in the knockout zone. Hulkenberg did himself no favors, drifting through the gravel at T1. He continued on. Sainz also had a misstep, spinning as he did Friday.

Hamilton’s first lap put him third fastest on the medium compound, while Rosberg sat fifth. Button was eleventh at halfway, having dropped time through the grass at T1. Bottas was soon third fastest, with his engineer on the radio asking for another half second. Meanwhile, Rosberg {1:28.906} finally beat Vettel’s time, only to have Hamilton do him one better by three tenths. Neither Mercedes driver had yet used the soft tire, though both Ferrari drivers remained shod in the quicker tire.

Kvyat still had not left the garage with five minutes remaining. Maldonado and Sainz joined him in the relegation zone, while many of the top runners sat in the garage. Kvyat made his way onto the track with an ominous sounding engine when just three minutes remained in Q1. Meanwhile, Verstappen jumped up to third fastest. Maldonado hauled himself up to tenth, with Sainz moving up to sixth.

That movement dropped Magnussen and Button into the knockout zone with a minute remaining. Neither looked to be on a quick lap as the seconds ticked towards the end of the session. Kvyat’s first and only lap put him twelfth, dropping Ericsson. Button set some personal best sectors, but could do nothing beyond beating Magnussen to seventeenth. The McLarens will start on the back row of the grid. In the end, Hamilton {1:28.586} led Rosberg, Massa, Verstappen, Vettel, Grosjean, Sainz, Bottas, Hulkenberg, and Raikkonen as the top ten.

Q2:
Clouds covered the sky for the fifteen minutes of Q2, with none of the drivers in a rush to enter the track. Nasr led the way, with Hulkenberg behind. Christian Horner showed a dire outlook, hoping only to get one of the Red Bulls into Q3. Neither of his drivers had a fully driveable car. Teams quickly put the cars onto the circuit, with half the field lapping before five minute elapsed. The Mercedes drivers started their session on the soft tire. Soon thereafter, Nasr {1:29.614} set the first time, one certain to be quickly bettered.

Bottas soon did so in his Williams, going 1.6s faster on his own first timed lap. He would soon look as slow as the proverbial turtle, with Hamilton {1:26.894} taking more than a second off the Finn’s time. Rosberg would go two tenths slower on his first lap.

Halfway through the session, Verstappen, Vettel, Grosjean, Raikkonen, Maldonado, and Kvyat were the only drivers yet to set times. Vettel’s lap looked promising, with a fastest overall first sector. His teammate Raikkonen had gone third fastest, only to have Vettel slot into that position. More importantly, Kvyat, Nasr, Hulkenberg, Perez, and Maldonado sat in the relegation zone with five minutes remaining.

At that point, most drivers returned to the garage, either for a relaxing time before Q1 {Hamilton and Rosberg} or final tweaks to attempt a run into Q1. Maldonado set sector times, but no completed lap. Hulkenberg moved up from thirteenth to eleventh with a sketchy final sector with three minutes remaining, as a number of drivers rejoined the track. Soon all the drivers but Hamilton and Rosberg were lapping.

Hulkenberg, Kvyat, Nasr, Perez, and Maldonado sat in the knockout zone with a minute to go. Raikkonen set the fastest overall first sector, safe in fourth. Perez improved, but only to twelfth. Hulkenberg remained eleventh, only to have Maldando jump up to move on to Q1. In the end, Hamilton {1:26.894} led Rosberg, Vettel, Bottas, Raikkonen, Massa, Grosjean, Sainz, Ricciardo, and Maldonado off to the lopsided fight for pole in Q1.

Q3:
None of the teams hustled their drivers immediately out for the twelve minutes of Q3. Bottas set out first, a minute into the session. The rest streamed out behind. Bottas complained of an issue with the “bite on the brakes.” Early times were predictable, with Hamilton {1:26.419} bettering his own time from Q2. Vettel, Raikkonen, Maldonado, Ricciardo, Grosjean, and Sainz rounded out the order of the early times as Rosberg lost control through T15 and dove into the pits after a tiny trip across the grass.

Massa put his Williams into third fastest at the halfway mark. His teammate had not yet set a time, nor had Rosberg. Vettel’s second fastest time was more than 1.3s slower than Hamilton’s provisional pole. Massa, Raikkonen, Maldonado, Ricciardo, Grosjean, and Sainz followed. Raikkonen led the way back onto the track, while Hamilton looked to be the last man onto the track for a final single lap run for pole.

Ricciardo seemed set to improve his own time, as did Raikkonen, with personal best sectors, though Hamilton improved the overall fast first sector. Ricciardo moved up to third, only to have Raikkonen do the same. Bottas went fourth even with a dust-kicking moment out of the final turn. Rosberg’s first and only timed lap was only enough to make a Mercedes front row as his teammate bested his own time. Meanwhile, Massa took third from Raikkonen, and Vettel fourth from his teammate as well.

{VMR}

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One thought on “F1 2015: Australian Grand Prix Qualifying Recap

  1. Pingback: F1 2015: Australian Grand Prix Race Recap | Racing Recap

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