Hamilton takes first pole of 2012 in Melbourne

Albert Park, Melbourne. © Creative Commons.

TV Notes

McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton claimed the 20th pole position of his Formula 1 career with a stellar fast lap in Melbourne.

The former champion set his best of 1:24.922 at the halfway point of the final qualifying segment, but it was more than enough to stay ahead of the chasing pack.

It was yet another confidence booster for Hamilton, who suffered an early off in the turn one during the opening qualifying session.

Hamilton’s teammate Jenson Button ensured it was an all-McLaren front row, with a late effort to displace Lotus-returnee Romain Grosjean, while a solid effort from Michael Schumacher made it three Mercedes-powered cars in the top four.

Red Bull filled out the third row, headed by the KERS-less Mark Webber. Both drivers found themselves a mammoth seven-tenths shy of pole – quite a turnaround from last year’s qualifying efforts.
Nico Rosberg planted his Mercedes mere hundredths shy of the Red Bull’s, while Pastor Maldonado (Williams) laid claim to an excellent lap, placing 8th. Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg allocated a single run to assume 9th spot ahead of Daniel Ricciardo (Toro Rosso) who did not run in Q3.

Ricciardo’s new French teammate, Jean-Eric Vergne, just missed out in the top ten, but did enough to line 11th for what will be his first Grand Prix.
Meanwhile, Q2 provided plenty of shocks for Ferrari fans, as neither Fernando Alonso nor Felipe Massa progressed through the second segment of Saturday. A dramatic spin for Alonso beached the double-World Champion into the gravel, bringing out a brief red flag, while Massa struggled with what appears to be an evil handling F2012.

Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber) and Bruno Senna (Williams) continued from where they left off in 2011, by taking the seventh row; however Paul di Resta (Force India) was disappointed to only place 15th.
Sauber’s Sergio Perez did not set a time in Q2, initially settling into 17th spot; however a gearbox change for the Mexican resulted in a five-place grid penalty.

Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen was the surprise loser in Q1. A brief off by the Finn toward the end of the segment ruined his chance of progress, leaving Raikkonen to meander with the usual bottom pack.
Aside from Red Bull and Ferrari, Caterham must also be extremely disappointed with their performance in qualifying. Despite the intra-team reshuffle and their introduction to KERS, both Heikki Kovalainen and Vitaly Petrov were still around one second shy of the midfield runners.
Next were the Marussia pair – headed by the ever-efficient Timo Glock – who remained approximately five seconds off the pace, while neither HRT were even close to qualifying for the Grand Prix*.

* {note 1}
HRT’s Pedro de la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan respectively qualified a mere 1.2 and 1.4 seconds outside the 107% cut-off point.
With their well publicised hydraulic issues, causing a lack of power steering, it begs the question as to how much closer they would have been had this been in operation.
While downforce is again severely lacking on the F112, the absence of power steering was clearly hurting de la Rosa and Karthikeyan, comprising both turn in and corner exit.

2012 Australian Grand Prix (Round 1, Qualifying)
Pos  Driver                Team                  Time          Gap    
 1.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes      1m24.922s 
 2.  Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes      1m25.074s  + 0.152 
 3.  Romain Grosjean       Lotus-Renault         1m25.302s  + 0.380 
 4.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes              1m25.336s  + 0.414 
 5.  Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault      1m25.651s  + 0.729 
 6.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault      1m25.668s  + 0.746 
 7.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes              1m25.686s  + 0.764 
 8.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Renault      1m25.908s  + 0.986 
 9.  Nico Hulkenberg       Force India-Mercedes  1m26.451s  + 1.529 
10.  Daniel Ricciardo      Toro Rosso-Ferrari    (no time) 
Q2 cut-off time: 1m26.319s                                    Q2 Gap 
11.  Jean-Eric Vergne      Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1m26.429s  + 0.960 
12.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari               1m26.4942  + 1.025 
13.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari        1m26.590s  + 1.121 
14.  Bruno Senna           Williams-Renault      1m26.663s  + 1.194 
15.  Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes  1m27.086s  + 1.617 
16.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari               1m27.497s  + 2.028 
Q1 cut-off time: 1m27.633s                                    Q1 Gap 
17.  Kimi Raikkonen        Lotus-Renault         1m27.758s  + 1.576 
18.  Heikki Kovalainen     Caterham-Renault      1m28.679s  + 2.497 
19.  Vitaly Petrov         Caterham-Renault      1m29.018s  + 2.836 
20.  Timo Glock            Marussia-Cosworth     1m30.923s  + 4.741 
21.  Charles Pic           Marussia-Cosworth     1m31.670s  + 5.488 
22.  Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari        (Q2, Penalty)
107% time: 1m32.214s 
DNQ  Pedro de la Rosa      HRT-Cosworth          1m33.495s  + 7.313 
DNQ  Narain Karthikeyan    HRT-Cosworth          1m33.643s  + 7.461 
^Notes compiled from live updates and team releases.

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