Lewis Hamilton has continued where he left off with an impressive run to pole position for the Australian Grand Prix. While he topped both Ferrari and Red Bull drivers in a blistering lap at the end of qualifying, his Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas had to look from the pits after crashing out earlier.
Qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix was the first time when drivers were all out this season, and Nico Hulkenberg was the first to get on with it, emerging out of the pitlane quickly to have the track for himself. The German's time wasn't the best however, as Raikkonen rapidly topped him on his first run on ultra-soft tyres.
Vettel who was out soon after was unable to match this time, ending up 3 tenths down on his Finnish team mate, who has seemed to be much better at ease so far this weekend.
When Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas emerged, it was obvious they had a lot more trouble getting that quick time in, due to the number of cars on track, possibly combined with slightly slower tyre warmup on their Mercedes. Hamilton did eventually get the upper hand, topping Raikkonen by 0.272s, but only doing so on his 5th flying lap.
As the last of the top teams, both Red Bulls emerged. They did two hot laps with a cooling down lap each, resulting in a 4th best time for Verstappen and 5th for Ricciardo, with just 0.013s seperating them.
A bit further behind, Sainz moved up into 6th, heading Alonso and Grosjean as the session neared its end. Bottas dropped down to 8th but without worries for him, as he safely progressed into Q2.
This resulted in the following classification:
In Q2, both Red Bulls emerged on the super softs, contrary to the faster ultra soft tyre everybody else was using. Needless to say, they ended up slower than both Ferrari and Mercedes because of that, but still comfortably in 5th and 6th.
Lewis Hamilton meanwhile didn't leave any doubt this time arond and set a new lap record in 1:22.507, enough to go back to the pits immediately. Raikkonen stranded at 5 tenths, Vettel and Bottas another extra tenth further back.
As the session came close to its end, Vettel and Verstappen surprisingly returned to the track, both recording improvements. Vettel to go fastest by 0.1s while Verstappen, still on the super softs, improved to 4th, 0.472s behind Vettel improved laptime.
In the drop out zone, both Haas cars made it through, joined by both factory Renault cars, who both appeared to have turned up their power units just a bit more than the others could. This performance resulting in both McLarens being eliminated in 11th and 12th, ahead of Perez, Stroll and Ocon.
Q3 kicked off with Hamilton taking to the track, closely followed by Valtteri Bottas. Vettel, Raikkonen and both Red Bulls got out for their first runs slightly later as well. The on-track fun wasn't going to last long though, with Bottas causing a red flag following a heavy shunt through Turn 2. The Finn had been slightly optimistic about his corner entry speed into Turn 1 and ended up exiting wide. Of course, as that is the usual re-acceleration point, the Finn stepped on the throttle an instant later, only to lose rear grip and spin off, banging the right hand side of his car into the tyre wall.
The unavoidable result was a badly damaged Mercedes F1 W09 EQ Power+, and 10th place on the starting grid. And that is if he managed to avoid a gearbox penalty.
15 minutes later, the session got going again, even while that included a yellow-red striped flag to warn for a slippery track in the area where Bottas crashed.
Daniel Ricciardo was the first man out on track, ahead of Hamilton. However, it was the latter who was the first to start his flying lap, having passed the home racer on the warm-up lap.
One the top 6 - apart from Bottas of course - had set their first times, Hamilton was fastest with a 1:22.051, but only by narrow margins. Sebastian Vettel in second was just 0.034s down, and Verstappen 0.061s. Raikkonen went fourth fastest and Ricciardo 5th, all within less than 0.35s.
When the track went quiet before the final shootout, both Haas and Renault cars went out, trying to make use of the calmer track before the main contenders for the pole position had their go.
An unusual early exit for Hamilton saw him start his pole lap ahead of both Ferrari and Red Bull drivers, but that didn't seem to bother him at all. The first sector was immediately 4 tenths faster than his previous outing, in the end resulting in a lap that was 8 tenths better, distancing himself from the rest to ensure his first pole position of the season.
Kimi Raikkonen improved into second place, just ahead of Vettel and Verstappen. The trio were roundabout 7 tenths down on the pole sitter. Ricciardo followed up at 1s, with behind him another full second gap to Magnussen, who set the sixth fastest time by narrowly outpacing his team mate, Romain Grosjean.
|1||44||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG||1:22.824||1:22.051||1:21.164||20|
|4||33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer||1:23.483||1:22.416||1:21.879||18|
|5||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer||1:23.494||1:22.897||1:22.152||17|
|6||20||Kevin Magnussen||Haas Ferrari||1:23.909||1:23.300||1:23.187||17|
|7||8||Romain Grosjean||Haas Ferrari||1:23.671||1:23.468||1:23.339||17|
|10||77||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes AMG||1:23.686||1:22.089||DNF||16|
|11||14||Fernando Alonso||McLaren Renault||1:23.597||1:23.692||-||14|
|12||2||Stoffel Vandoorne||McLaren Renault||1:24.073||1:23.853||-||14|
|13||11||Sergio Perez||Force India Mercedes||1:24.344||1:24.005||-||14|
|14||18||Lance Stroll||Williams Mercedes||1:24.464||1:24.230||-||13|
|15||31||Esteban Ocon||Force India Mercedes||1:24.503||1:24.786||-||16|
|16||28||Brendon Hartley||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda||1:24.532||-||-||8|
|17||9||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber Ferrari||1:24.556||-||-||9|
|18||16||Charles Leclerc||Sauber Ferrari||1:24.636||-||-||9|
|19||35||Sergey Sirotkin||Williams Mercedes||1:24.922||-||-||8|
|20||10||Pierre Gasly||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda||1:25.295||-||-||7|
Q1 107% time - 1:28.621
Note - Ricciardo penalised three grid places for speeding under red flags in practice.