What we learned in qualifying

Date published: March 14 2015

Mercedes finally showed their true pace, great debut for Carlos Sainz Jr, Red Bull's problems continue and more.

* Lewis Hamilton showed that all the signs from testing were true – and then some! He was fastest in all three sessions and finished in pole position and a massive 0.6 seconds in front of his team-mate and 1.4 seconds quicker than the nearest non-Silver Arrows opposition, the Williams-Mercedes of Felipe Massa.

* In what was predicted as a tight duel for the second row, Williams just about edged out Ferrari with Felipe Massa finishing in P3 ahead of Sebastian Vettel in P4, Raikkonen in P5 and Bottas in P6. A late-lap moment for Valtteri  Bottas robbed him of the opportunity of making it an all-Williams second row. In Q2 the four cars had been separated by just 0.15 of a second. Kimi Raikkonen will be pleased to have finished just 0.033 behind his team-mate after being lashed by Alonso in 2014.

This time last year we had a rain-threatened Q1, but the fastest lap had been a 1:30.775 – Lewis’s pole time, a 1:26.327 has reduced that by over four seconds.

It was a great debut for a rookie Toro Rosso driver. But it wasn’t Max Verstappen. Carlos Sainz Junior put his Toro Rosso 8th on the grid and will line up alongside Red Bull’s Dan Ricciardo. Verstappen had a good qualifying session – ending up 4th in Q1 – but finished 12th after complaining at one stage that “something is pushing against my shoulder”.  He ended up just in front of Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat.

Red Bull suffered more Renault technical problems with limited running in final practice for both Kvyat and Ricciardo. In fact the decision not to red-flag the session after Ricciardo came to a halt at the pitlane exit was widely criticised. Instead, his car was wheeled back by marshals under yellow flags. This, the day after Ricciardo’s first Renault engine (of four for the entire season) gave up the ghost. The Honey Badger made it through to P7 despite complaining over team radio about the driveability of the engine.

What a difference a year makes…Having gratefully received the supply of Mercedes engines intended for McLaren, Lotus got both cars into Q3 with Grosjean edging out Pastor Maldonado – P9 and P10. In 2015 they are the new Williams.

Sauber managed to get a temporary resolution of their dispute with jilted driver Giedo van der Garde and so Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson took to the Albert Park track on Saturday. Nasr continued some of the great form he’d shown in testing by putting his Sauber C34 into P11.

Force India ended up more or less where they expected, having run the VMJ-08 a lot less than the other teams above them on the timesheets. This season, with the increased weight allowance on the cars, Nico Hulkenberg has less of a disadvantage being the heaviest driver. He edge out his far lighter team-mate by 0.001 of a second. So skipping that second croissant at breakfast was worth it.

McLaren-Honda proved that this latest ‘Honda F1 return’ is more like the Jacques Villeneuve BAR-Honda era, than the Ayrton Senna McLaren-Honda era. Neither of the MP4-30s looked like making it into Q2 despite being the earliest to switch to Soft tyres in Q1. It was their worst qualifying since 1983 and on Sunday they will make up the back row of the grid.

It was also a miserable day for Manor Marussia who failed to get their cars’ electronics systems working, having wiped the data from their servers in anticipation of them being auctioned off. Having failed to even put in a single installation lap, there is no prospect they can take part in the grand prix.