Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor Mattpt55
221 days since the last non-Red Bull pole and it’s Lewis Hamilton who is quickest. A scintillating qualifying session goes right down to the wire with the Red Bull new boy, Daniel Ricciardo, putting in an impressive display the split the Silver Arrows.
What started off as a very pleasant day at Albert Park quickly turned to an overcast affair. For the first time in 2014, we have seen 4 tyre compounds used on the same day. The Mercedes cars look ominous in the dry, easily the class of the field but seem to lose much of that advantage in the wet. Toro Rosso will be praying for rain to continue as the car seems a completely different package in the moist conditions. 3 World Champions in 11th,12th and 13th (before penalties) sets the race up very well.
Who would have thought it – a return to making cars much like those from the 80s has made 2014 racing an appetising delight.
The start of qualifying brings all the waiting to an end, and there is already drama. Both Gutierrez and Bottas will be collecting grid penalties for changing gearboxes. Gutierriez will be particularly miffed since it was a failure of the Mclaren ECU that caused his gearbox to eat itself. And no one knows whom Bernie is dealing with, but the threat of rain hangs heavy in the air waiting to upset Mercedes’ applecart with the spectre of Red Bull resurgent in the wet.
The session kicks off with both Mercedes side by side, Hamilton out first, this year with just 18 minutes to get it done. On the warm up lap Grosjean decides to pass Rosberg, apparently so he can claim at least one overtake for the weekend. Importantly, given the approaching rain, Mercedes are both on the Medium compound, along with Alonso, which will give them an extra set of Softs should the rain hit in Q2. In the meantime, the wind is gusting and will present a major problem, especially into turns 9 and 13, where there were more than a few offs in P3. No surprise, with Hamilton first across the line he takes top spot, quickly knocked off the perch by Massa. As the other runners start coming across quicker, Vettel noticeably last to leave the garage. And in his first run, he manages to tap the wall on the exit of 10, but no serious damage done other than his lap time.
Into the second set of laps and Lewis runs wide turn 9 as the pace begins to hot up. Grosjean dumps his 2nd run into the litter. Things are not going well for Romain, he was heard yelling at his team over the radio during P3. This will not make him a happier person. Alonso has a big lock up and the screaming tyres can plainly be heard on the telly. Vettel improves and moves onto 7th and Sutil’s effort gets him well clear of the drop zone. Meanwhile Button has heating issues and with 7.5 minute to go the rain arrives. Hamilton is back on track for no real reason but cautioned by his team, meanwhile Grosjean is told to speed up by his team to which he replies “I cannot”. With the rain it’s all about to change and currently Kobayashi is winning the battle of the backmarkers by advancing to Q2 while Maldonado sticks the fork in Lotus by spinning it into the litter. With the rain increasing there will be no improvement and Q3 ends with Ricciardo on top and in order, Chilton, Bianchi, Gutierrez, Ericsson, Grosjean and Maldonado respectively in places 17-22.
The start of Q2 and rain is falling steadily. Everyone’s running inters except Toro Rosso, who have opted to start on full wets. The Williams are out first and immediately on his first lap Bottas is off on Turn 9, the Williams looking very twitchy in the wet. This will be the first trip most of the drivers will have had in these conditions and the additional torque will no doubt be adding to the fun factor. After the first round of laps Vettel is slower than both Mercs, slotting into 7th place, while his team mate Ricciardo slots into first place and is looking properly quick in these conditions. And the first yellow makes its appearance, Bottas spinning to make it interesting. Track is starting to dry, promising to reward later runners. Both Merc’s to the top with 6:46 to go, now split by Ricciardo only.007 down on Hamilton. A proper duel then between Rosberg, Hamilton and Ricciardo is now developing. JEV moves up to 4th, he was quick in the wet last year as well. With 4:21 to go everyone is boxing for new inters. Massa moves up to 2nd , the drying track will mean it’s all down to who times their last run best. Alonso to 10th as time runs down. And that’s it, the yellows are out as Raikkonen has driven into the wall. Vettel is caught out and has to slow on his last flyer. He’s done and will not advance. Meanwhile the crowd is roaring as Ricciardo *has* advanced in P2 just .031 off Rosberg. In order, Button, Raikkonen, Vettel, Sutil, Kobayashi and Perez will occupy positions 11-22 and advance no further.
Rain is heaving down now, and as the session goes green, it’s Rosberg trailed by Ricciardo. DRS disabled and Rosberg is looking to have the advantage the wetter it gets. They’re all running full wets save Alonso. Conditions are miserable and no one looks entirely comfortable. Still it’s Rosberg P1, Hamilton P2 with Ricciardo P6 after the first runs, with Hulkenberg coming third.
Ricciardo’s on the radio with the team asking about inters as Alonso’s pace indicates it was the wrong choice for the first half of Q3. Times are falling and everyone’s looking for the crossover to inters. As Rosberg pits for fresh tyres, Hamilton leapfrogs him for P1. Meanwhile, looks like Ricciardo is leaning inters as he manages a time just .7 off Hamilton. With just 3 minutes left it’s a frenzy of activity as everone’s into the pits for new tyres. Mercedes stick with the full wets as Ricciardo switches to inters, for better or worse.
He’s stayed out one lap too long and they run a proper race style pit stop to get him changed over and out on time. The wind is howling round the track and the spray is epic. Rosberg is on a hot lap and faster than anyone in the first sector. And he’s off in turn 9!! Massa is giving it everything but the Williams is all over the track. One minute to go Rosberg purple in the first 2 sectors, Magnussen to P3. Ricciardo to P1, immediately has it nicked by Hamilton. Rosberg comes through even quicker, but he won’t get another lap, as that off in turn 9 really cost him. It’s one on one between Hamilton and Ricciardo.
Kvyat is into the wall into turn 9 but he can continue but leaves part of his car behind. Ricciardo is across the line P1 1:44.548 with only Lewis and Alonso out. Hamilton hits the line in 1:44.231!! It’s P1 for Lewis and Mercedes claim the first pole of the year, but no lockout as Ricciardo will be lining up P2 and Rosberg and Magnussen P3 and P4.
Alonso , Vergne, Hulkenberg, Kvyat, Massa and Bottas finish out P5-10 respectively. Meanwhile Button and Vettel must be already wondering where it all went so wrong.
Tomorrow will answer many questions while asking some more, but the weather should hold the trump card, with rain, wind and cold in store for the drivers.
|2||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull-Renault||1m44.548s||+0.317s|
|6||Jean-Eric Vergne||Toro Rosso-Renault||1m45.864s||+1.633s|
|7||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1m46.030s||+1.799s|
|8||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso-Renault||1m47.360s||+3.129s|
|13||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault||1m44.668s||+2.404s|
|16||Sergio Perez||Force India-Mercedes||1m47.293s||+5.029s|
|22||Pastor Maldonado||Lotus-Renault||No Time|