Hamilton denies Ricciardo dream home pole position

2014 Australian Grand Prix qualifying

Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, Albert Park, 2014The cars may not make as much noise as they used to but the Melbourne crowd more than made up for that when, for a few fleeting moments, it looked like their home driver was going to get pole position.

The chequered flag was already out in Q3 when Daniel Ricciardo, bravely risking intermediate tyres on a wet track, went fastest in his Red Bull.

But seconds later Lewis Hamilton arrived to spoil the party and give Mercedes the pole position everyone expected them to start the season with.

An action-packed qualifying session saw rain showers, a world champion in the barriers and some impressive rookie performances.

Q1

With the track dry but the skies darkening the drivers were eager to take to the track as qualifying began. Some were queued up at the pit lane exit including the two Mercedes drivers.

Nico Rosberg was advised to let Hamilton leave first – the rules state that the first driver to arrive in the queue has priority – and the team also warned him to set a lap quickly as rain was on its way.

It took a little longer to arrive than expected, giving all the drivers the chance to set a time in dry conditions. The only one who failed to take advantage was Pastor Maldonado, though from the difficulty he was having with the Lotus you’d have been forgiven for thinking the track was wet.

Romain Grosjean was also struggling in the other Lotus. Even before the rain arrived the pair looked likely to be the two slowest qualifiers.

Aside from Lotus’s struggles Q3 had a familiar look. Both Marussias failed to make it through – though Max Chilton unusually out-qualified Jules Bianchi – and Marcus Ericsson’s Caterham also failed to progress.

Team mate Kamui Kobayashi, however, bounced back from the team’s dire problems on Friday to take his car into Q2.

Drivers eliminated in Q1

17 Max Chilton Marussia-Ferrari 1’34.293
18 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Ferrari 1’34.794
19 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1’35.117
20 Marcus Ericsson Caterham-Renault 1’35.157
21 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1’36.993
22 Pastor Maldonado Lotus-Renault

Q2

Rain was not what most drivers wanted as they contemplated their first qualifying session of the year on a parkland circuit in new cars with brutal power delivery and often unpredictable braking characteristics.

The latter definitely applied at Toro Rosso, whose drivers had struggled with their brakes in practice. Jean-Eric Vergne was particularly apprehensive ahead of Q2.

It turned out he needn’t have been. Remarkably, both Toro Rosso drivers claimed a place in Q3, including rookie Daniil Kvyat.

Both Williams drivers also progressed though Valtteri Bottas found the conditions a handful, sliding off at turn nine and then spinning at turn one – though the latter happened moments after he set fastest time.

With conditions improving rapidly towards the end of the session the timing of the final laps was crucial. While Fernando Alonso took the fastest time in the Ferrari team mate Kimi Raikkonen caught traffic at the end of his lap and could only manage eighth.

His attempt to improve further was scuppered when his car got away from him at turn four. The Ferrari wiped its nose off against the barrier and with most of the other drivers already ahead of him and on their last laps, Raikkonen was doomed to elimination.

He wasn’t the only world champion to miss the cut. Jenson Button, three times a winner at the Melbourne track, was also knocked out – though his team initially misinformed him that he’d made it into Q3.

But the biggest surprise was Sebastian Vettel. While team mate Ricciardo frequently popped up near the top of the times the reigning world champion could only manage 13th.

Drivers eliminated in Q2

11 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1’44.437
12 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1’44.494
13 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1’44.668
14 Adrian Sutil Sauber-Ferrari 1’45.655
15 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham-Renault 1’45.867
16 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1’47.293

Q3

Further rain fell as the extended 12-minute Q3 shoot-out began, leading most drivers to take to the track on wet weather tyres. Alonso was an exception: he started the session on intermediates but switched to wet weather tyres for his final run.

But Alonso didn’t figure in the fight for pole position. That was conducted between the Mercedes drivers as expected and – surprisingly – Ricciardo’s Red Bull. He put intermediate tyres on for his final run, indicating the Red Bull wants for nothing in the area of downforce.

Rosberg went off at turn nine shortly after beginning his first run. The time lost hear would cost him later – he completed his final lap moments after the chequered flag came out, while Ricciardo and Hamilton had just begun their final runs on an improving track.

Massa’s Williams nearly got away from him on the curved run to turn ten. But the same area caught out Daniil Kvyat who clipped the barrier in his Toro Rosso. Fortunately for his rivals, the yellow flags were not needed.

Ricciardo hesitated slightly at the final corner, feeling a strange sensation at the front of the car which he thought might be related to debris, but when he crossed the line and took the fastest time off Rosberg the crowd went crazy.

They were subdued somewhat by Hamilton’s subsequent improvement, which denied Ricciardo his pole position, but a front row start for the Red Bull driver was beyond the team’s expectations heading into the weekend.

Kevin Magnussen also stood out on his debut for McLaren, claiming fourth on the grid having been their only representative in Q3.

Top ten in Q3

1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1’44.231
2 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault 1’44.547
3 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’44.595
4 Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Mercedes 1’45.745
5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1’45.819
6 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Renault 1’45.864
7 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1’46.030
8 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Renault 1’47.368
9 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1’48.079
10 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 1’48.147

2014 Australian Grand Prix

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141 comments on Hamilton denies Ricciardo dream home pole position

  1. dragoll (@dragoll) said on 15th March 2014, 8:02

    I think that 2014 is going to be a lot tighter WDC and WCC chase than previous. Mercedes have a head start, lets see if they can capitalise on it early and get enough of a lead before RBR and RIC and VET come back at them later on in the year.

  2. TMF (@tmf42) said on 15th March 2014, 8:08

    I think VET had troubles with the car, he was off Dani’s pace by 1.5 secs in the dry and 2.4 in the wet – Dani is an excellent driver and can challenge VET but this margin is too big.

    • mnmracer (@mnmracer) said on 15th March 2014, 8:37

      Vettel has had only one trouble-free practice session, in which he was 0.2 seconds faster than Ricciardo. Whatever’s happening under the hood of that car, something’s not working right.

      • Feuerdrache (@xenomorph91) said on 15th March 2014, 8:50

        @mnmracer: Let’s hope they can fix it somehow before the race because Parc Fermé doesn’t allow it normally.

        Being slower than Ricciardo in all sessions on Saturday (also in Q1 when it was dry, he was 1s slower), implies that something has been different on Vettel’s car that made it slower.

  3. Howard (@howard) said on 15th March 2014, 8:10

    Red Bull were bluffing to some degree, since last week they have made huge improvements.

    Button is an old dog, his time is up.

  4. juan fanger (@juan-fanger) said on 15th March 2014, 8:13

    Kevin – is that Danish for Bruce?

  5. Force Maikel (@force-maikel) said on 15th March 2014, 8:13

    Great show, loved the tensions and uncertainty. Great efforts by Ricciardo, Kvyat and Magnussen.

    However I suspect the running order might be quite different in a dry race spec. Can’t wait for tomorrow to come.

  6. evered7 (@evered7) said on 15th March 2014, 8:17

    A million tries and I still wouldn’t have got the top 3 right. Good that we only need to predict the pole winner.

    Alonso again in a familiar position but with unfamiliar cars around him. Two relative rookies ahead of him, if he can get his usual start, he might fight the Mercs.

    Seems like a unusual start to the season’s qualifying with the rain being a great leveller. Hope the race gives us some idea of the running order.

    • Patrick (@paeschli) said on 15th March 2014, 8:31

      Why does everyone wants a dry race for tomorrow? If its dry tomorrow, and Mercedes laps everyone twice like Horner said, I don’t think I’ll watch the rest of the season.

      I’d rather have rain tomorrow and not know who’s really on top as long as possible.

  7. 23kennyboy23 said on 15th March 2014, 9:34

    Every year Hamilton has a decent chance there’s always a ton of wet races to mix it up lol. Glad he’s still on top.

  8. joc_the_man said on 15th March 2014, 9:38

    Congrat’s to…
    Lewis that showed what a qualifier he is
    Dan – really a surprise in many dimensions
    Kev’s debut was stunning

    Tears for…
    Kimi’s (my man) mistake…sh-t
    Marcus (my countryman) struggling in the green
    the noise by the TV-set…was like watching Prius racing
    Lotus, well what can you say…other than Kimi made the right decision

  9. evered7 (@evered7) said on 15th March 2014, 9:58

    Somebody must tell RB that Webber has gone out of the team and that they should stop messing with the second car. Even if you have perfected the art, you can still do the job on the wrong car like today.

  10. Tasimana said on 15th March 2014, 10:00

    Well done Daniel. He drove brilliantly but needs to follow it up with a podium finish tomorrow. If they can sort Vettels car out he should carve his way through the field. He’s one of be best over takers but fuel burn could be an issue for him though compared to the front runners. Magnussen and Kvyat performing this well on debut shows that the new cars has levelled out the field.

  11. gazzap (@gazzap) said on 15th March 2014, 10:27

    If you think about the bigger picture Vettel will be pleased that a Red Bull was capable of getting front row. 2 weeks ago everyone would have laughed if you’d told them that. But importantly it was raining. It does show that the design of the RB is almost certainly still the best out there by a distance, but they are struggling with gremlins related to that Renault power train. I still think when they iron them out in say 3 races time RB will be the quickest car. Reliability will be their problem I reckon. The rain meant we still can’t really tell where everyone is.
    But these cars look a big handful in the wet. That won’t change all season and we could get some really odd results when it rains.

  12. Ciaran (@ciaran) said on 15th March 2014, 11:11

    Great qualifying session. We finally got to see drivers properly wrestling the cars, and some absolutely brilliant performances as well. Couldn’t ask for a better start to the new era of F1.

  13. OneBHK (@onebhk) said on 15th March 2014, 11:40

    Danil Kvyat turns out to be the good decision for Torro Rosso, chucking out Felix Da Costa

  14. Gerry said on 15th March 2014, 11:43

    I was at the qualifying today !! what a disaster!! silent cars at a snail pace . Consider this guys, the lap record is 1min 24 secs. Today the fastest lap in the dry was about 1 min 31 secs and Ham’s pole time was some 1min 44 secs (wet). DIDASTER!!!!! I’m debating whether to go for the race tomorrow.

    • Dave (@dworsley) said on 15th March 2014, 12:15

      You were obviously not one of the Australians at the track…

    • dkpioe said on 15th March 2014, 15:01

      could you tell the difference in speed from last years cars to this years from your seating position? if you could you are a genius. you are looking at the numbers too much, just watch the cars and enjoy the racing. it is not a disaster. don’t go to the race tomorrow, someone else who enjoys the sport will gladly take your seat, they – being aussie will root for Ricciardo and not care about numbers like you.

    • Ninjenius said on 15th March 2014, 15:16

      Give me your ticket then you ingrate! :)

    • joc_the_man said on 15th March 2014, 15:44

      ..feel sorry for you Gerry. Nothing sensational as this debate has been ongoing for quite long now. Sure, the magic is gone. I will not waste my money on grandstand tickets anylonger either. Unfortunately the 2014 version of F1. Sad times.

  15. Arki (@arki19) said on 15th March 2014, 11:57

    The drivers seemed to be working so much harder to keep this years cars going where they want them. I am loving all the sliding and the clearly visible way the cars have to be wrestled around corners; and that’s before it started to rain! I am also extremely glad the engines are no longer as loud – the sheer volume of sound was too much for me.
    Even disregarding the actual results this years F1 gets a big thumbs up so far. I am still worried that fuel saving will ruin the actual race but I guess we will see tomorrow.

    If it rains for the a good deal of the race I assume fuel consumption will be less?

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