Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton stole pole position from under the nose of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo during a dramatic, rain-affected qualifying session in Melbourne on Saturday afternoon.
After a dry start to proceedings, the heavens were threatening all day finally opened up in the final minutes of the first qualifying phase, with the weather deteriorating enough to warrant the use of Pirelli’s Full Wet tyre in the final shootout.
The works Mercedes machines of Nico Rosberg and Hamilton had control over the field after the first flurry of flying laps, with the German marque’s strong dry weather pace carrying straight over to wet conditions.
While team-mate Sebastian Vettel suffered a Q2 elimination due to technical issues, Ricciardo was able to slash the gap to the leaders in the tricky conditions, emerging as Rosberg and Hamilton’s greatest threat in the battle for the top spot.
On the final timed runs of the extended 12 minute session, Rosberg recovered from an off-track excursion at the Turn 9/10 chicane to take provisional pole position, but Ricciardo, one of the few drivers to gamble on the Intermediate rubber, and finally Hamilton made impressive gains after the chequered flag had dropped.
Kevin Magnussen was best of the rest behind a top three covered by 0.364 seconds. While fellow McLaren driver Jenson Button dropped out in Q2.
Fernando Alonso was left to lead Ferrari’s charge after team-mate Kimi Räikkönen crashed out at the end of the second phase, the Spaniard taking fifth position, narrowly ahead of Toro Rosso’s Jean-Éric Vergne. The latter’s team-mate, Daniil Kvyat, also made it through to claim eighth, just behind Force India driver Nico Hülkenberg.
t straightforward today, especially because of traffic,” Räikkönen said. “When I was on a quick lap, I had a car in front of me at every corner. That stopped me getting a clean lap and at the end of Q2, I spun off damaging the front wing.
“I don’t think I’d have gone quicker anyway, as I had already reduced my speed at this point, because I knew already I wouldn’t make it to Q3. It’s a shame, because compared to yesterday we have made some steps forward.”
“In the wet we were quick and I had more feeling for the car. We know we have a lot of work to do in every area, especially on car set-up, but at the same time, we are sure we are going in the right direction.
Williams’s Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas completed the top ten positions, although the latter will be hit with a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change, promoting key Q2 eliminees Button, Räikkönen and Vettel.
Sauber driver Adrian Sutil, Kamui Kobayashi – who impressively squeezed his Caterham into Q2 by using the early dry weather to his advantage – and Force India’s Sergio Pérez also fell at the second hurdle.
Despite narrowly missing out on progression to Q2, Max Chilton was encouraged after getting the better of Marussia team-mate Jules Bianchi. The pair edged out Esteban Gutiérrez and Caterham’s Marcus Ericsson.
At the tail-end of the order, Lotus’s nightmare start to the 2014 campaign continued. Romain Grosjean was the last of the timed runners in Q1, while Pastor Maldonado spun out of the running. Gutiérrez, who has also been hit with a gearbox penalty, saves the pair the embarrassment of sharing the back row of the grid.
Qualifying results – 2014 Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix
|2.||D. Ricciardo||Red Bull||01:44.548||20|
|6.||J. Vergne||Toro Rosso||01:45.864||21|
|7.||N. Hulkenberg||Force India||01:46.030||20|
|8.||D. Kvyat||Toro Rosso||01:47.368||20|
|13.||S. Vettel||Red Bull||01:44.668||13|
|16.||S. Perez||Force India||01:47.293||13|
|22.||P. Maldonado||Lotus||no time||3|