Lewis Hamilton’s dominance in qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix continued on Saturday as he bagged a sixth successive pole position in Melbourne.
Although Formula 1 arrived at the Albert Park circuit expecting Ferrari to have the edge, it was Mercedes who seized the advantage.
Hamilton was quickest when it mattered most, bagging pole position, his eighth overall, with a 1:20.486.
But it is not all doom and gloom for his rivals as only twice in his F1 career has the reigning World Champion taken the checkered flag at the Australian GP.
Heading into the first qualifying of the new Formula 1 season there was just one certainty; Williams would be slowest of all.
And they were.
The Grove team struggled for pace with George Russell and Robert Kubica P19 and 20, the latter suffering a tyre issue on his final hot lap.
The team-mates were two and four seconds off the P1 pace with Russell’s 1:24.360 a full second slower than Williams’ nearest rival, McLaren’s Carlos Sainz.
Also out in Q1 were Lance Stroll, 16th, and surprisingly Red Bull driver Pierre Gasly, who was 17th.
Charles Leclerc, a 1:22.017, was quickest in Q1 ahead of Hamilton and Bottas in a segment in which the top 18 were separated by a second.
— Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1) March 16, 2019
For Q2, Bottas set the early pace with a 1:21.241 ahead of Max Verstappen and Leclerc while Hamilton was fourth and Vettel fifth.
However, given the track evolution, all 15 drivers – excluding Leclerc – ventured out for a second run late in the session.
Hamilton pipped Bottas with a 1:21.014 while out were Nico Hulkenberg, home town lad Daniel Ricciardo, Alexander Albon, Antonio Giovinazzi and Daniil Kvyat.
As for F1’s rookies, Lando Norris beat Sainz, Albon beat Kvyat and Russell was ahead of Kubica. Only Giovinazzi failed to pip his team-mate.
Q2's best time was blistering 🔥
— Formula 1 (@F1) March 16, 2019
Q3 was once again all about Mercedes as Bottas laid down a 1:20.598, a new lap record, to cross the line 0.457s ahead of Hamilton.
The Brit, though, had made a minor mistake at Turn 1 which cost him a tenth or two.
Vettel lined up third ahead of Leclerc and Verstappen, the latter another to have made a mistake on his hot lap.
They did, however, have time for a second run and another opportunity to grab pole position.
Hamilton responded to his team-mate’s P1 time with a fastest first sector time, a personal best in the second, and purple in the third: 1:20.486.
Bottas fell short by 0.112s.
Vettel was third but a whopping 0.704s down while Verstappen was fourth ahead of Leclerc and Romain Grosjean.
Kevin Magnussen, rookie driver Norris, Kimi Raikkonen and Sergio Perez completed the top ten.
— Australian Grand Prix #AusGP (@ausgrandprix) March 16, 2019
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:20.486
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 0.112s
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 0.704s
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull 0.834s
5 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 0.956s
6 Romain Grosjean Haas 1.340s
7 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1.613s
8 Lando Norris McLaren 1.818s
9 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing 1.828s
10 Sergio Perez Racing Point 2.295
11 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:22.532
12 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 1:22.570
13 Alex Albon Toro Rosso 1:22.636
14 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing 1:22.714
15 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:22.774
16 Lance Stroll Racing Point 1:23.017
17 Pierre Gasly Red Bull 1:23.020
18 Carlos Sainz McLaren 1:23.084
19 George Russell Williams 1:24.360
20 Robert Kubica Williams 1:26.067
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