Lewis Hamilton took pole position in the newly revamped Qualifying hour at Melbourne for tomorrows Australian Grand Prix.
The new format sees the same three-quarter-format however a couple of minutes into each session, the slowest driver will be eliminated every 90 seconds. This happens until we reach Q3, where the last two fastest drivers will duke it out for pole position.
At least that was what was supposed to happen.
Instead we had a rather exciting first half of Qualifying, which saw everybody queue up at the pit exit as if there was rain on the way. Nico Rosberg was racing teammate Lewis Hamilton off of pit lane, in a bid to be the first out to start a lap. As he overtook him into turn 2, all eyes were on Rosberg to see if he could pull off a stellar lap time so early on.
Disaster however struck when he outbraked himself into turn one, running wide and causing him to abandon that effort. Romain Grosjean who also got ahead of Hamilton made a mistake in the middle sector, which meant they both had to start another lap and move over for a charging Hamilton, who went fastest overall.
Unsurprisingly it was the two Manor’s who were knocked out first – both of whom where in the pits when it happened – along with Gutierrez, Kvyat, Nasr who mistimed his run, and Ericsson who got knocked into the drop zone when Palmer improved on his lap after the chequered flag.
The second part of Qualifying was perhaps where the tone was set. Most drivers only went out for one run each, with both Renault’s dropping out after setting lap times that were three seconds off the pace. Magnussen and Palmer will start 14th and 15th respectively.
Rosberg and Hamilton both went out to improve on their lap times, after the former was slower than both Ferrari’s on his first attempt in fourth place. As this occurred Alonso was the next driver to drop out after Sainz improved on his lap.
Bottas and Hulkenberg were the next in the drop zone, with Force India getting both drivers to improve on their lap times which put the Williams driver down in 12th position for the start tomorrow.
Enter Q3 and again we saw drivers go out on one run in order to save tyres. Ricciardo, Sainz, Massa, Verstappen, Raikkonen and Vettel all managed one run before Mercedes did another in order to secure their one-two lockout for tomorrows race.
Lewis Hamilton perhaps put in the best performance, improving on his initial lap by two tenths of a second to produce a 1:23.837, 0.360 seconds ahead of teammate Nico Rosberg.
The big talk wasn’t the advantage Mercedes has though or stunning lap time produced by Hamilton, but rather the Qualifying format itself which more or less ended with 4 minutes to spare.
Changes look to be on the horizon for Bahrain, but as it stands it looks like a similar script to 12 months ago; Hamilton, Rosberg and Vettel addressing the media in the post-session press conference.