Lewis Hamilton claimed the 62nd pole position of his Formula One career at Albert Park, Melbourne this morning.
The Mercedes racer fended off challenges from teammate Valtteri Bottas and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel to take the top spot with a final lap of 1:22.188s.
Both Bottas and Vettel secured provision pole for short periods until being pipped by the Briton in a Q3 that was split into two distinct runs; however Bottas will rue being two-tenths shy of his fellow Mercedes man, having lost just that amount in the final sector.
Vettel too lost time in the opening and final sector, but the four-time champion felt that his Ferrari was not quite on the pace of the leading Mercedes, but the German took the front row spot for the first time since Singapore 2015 with a 1:22.456s. Bottas fell to 3rd in the last moment – his best was just 0.025s shy of the Ferrari man.
Hamilton was quickest in first run with a 1:22.496s, some three-tenths ahead of Vettel and Bottas, while the other Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen was almost a second adrift of the then fastest.
Raikkonen settled into his regular position of 4th this weekend, several tenths behind Bottas and a similar gap ahead of Max Verstappen (Red Bull). It was a tricky qualifying session for Raikkonen, who had to go for a second run to ensure an escape from Q1.
Romain Grosjean (Haas) secured 6th to line-up on the third row alongside Verstappen. Felipe Massa qualified 7th in his Williams, ahead of the Toro Rosso dup of Carlos Sainz and Daniil Kvyat.
Daniel Ricciardo’s (Red Bull) qualifying turned into a nightmare when he spun and crashed in the final sector, bringing out a red flag. The Australian had not set a time, solidifying a 10th place start for Ricciardo.
Both Force India’s missed out on Q3, with Sergio Perez just falling short by one-tenth at the flag. Esteban Ocon only managed 14th place when a solid lap was hampered by a slight mistake in the final corner.
Nico Hulkenberg was the quickest Renault in 12th spot, pipping Fernando Alonso (McLaren) by four-tenths, the latter of whom lost the end of his first Q2 run due to a loss of power. Sauber’s Marcus Ericson could do better than 15th in his C36.
Antonio Giovinazzi just missed out on going through to Q2 at the first time of asking. The Italian was looking set to improve on his final run, when a mistake in the penultimate corner stranded him in 16th spot once Ericsson had improved.
It was a poor session for Haas who lost Kevin Magnussen in the opening qualifying session, after he had an off exiting the turn 11/12 chicane on his last quick lap, only managing 17th with a 1:26.858s. McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne lines up 18th after he missed much of Q1 due to a fuel flow issue during his first run.
Lance Stroll initially secured 19th in his Williams F40, but a grid penalty for a gearbox change drops his to last, while Renault’s Jolyon Palmer will take 19th, after setting a lap 3.3s slower than teammate Hulkenberg in Q1, in what has been an awful weekend for the Briton.