Australian GP - Saturday - Qualifying Session Report
Reigning in the rain
Lewis Hamilton reigned in the rain as he snatched pole position in the very last moments of the rainy Qualifying 3 session in Melbourne. Australian Daniel Ricciardo had the pole but ended up gridding his Red Bull second. It was his best ever qualifying position. Hamilton's Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg rounded out the top three.
Mercedes teammates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg were the first out of the pits as Q1 began.
Once things got serious, Daniel Ricciardo set best time with a 1:30.775 in his Red Bull.
With 7 minutes remaining in the session, it began to rain. Pastor Maldonado spun his Lotus into the gravel.
With 3 minutes remaining in the session, Esteban Gutierrez went out to try a few laps in the wet in his Sauber.
The top six at the end of Q1 were: Ricciardo, Kevin Magnussen (McLaren), Felipe Massa (Williams), Fernando Alonso (Ferrari), Jenson Button (McLaren), Valterri Bottas (Williams), Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) and Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari.)
The six drivers eliminated at the end of Q1 were: Max Chilton (Marussia), Gutierrez, Marcus Ericsson (Caterham, and Lotus teammates Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado.
It was windy and the track was wet as the 15-minute Q2 session began.
Just about all the drivers had Pirelli's intermediate rain tires fitted. Kamui Kobayashi had extreme wets on his Caterham as did Daniil Kvyat on his Toro Rosso.
It was slippery out there. Bottas and Nico Hulkenberg (Force India) slid off at Turn 9.
Massa laid down the time to aim for – 1:47.160 – and Rosberg beat that with a 1:46.708. Ricciardo topped that with a 1:46.646.
With 8 minutes remaining in the session, Bottas set the best time at 1:45.689 and then spun. Ricciardo answered with a 1:45.655.
The racing line was drying a bit and the times were coming down. Alonso and Hamilton took turns at the top of the screens. Ricciardo moved into second. Hulkenberg took over third.
With 5 minutes remaining in the session, Hamilton went quickest. Then Jenson Button (McLaren) beat him. Then Ricciardo beat Button.
With 4 minutes remaining in the session, Vettel was 12th and in danger of missing the cut to make it into Q3.
The track continued to dry and get faster. The lap times were all going to change in the last two minutes.
Bottas, Alonso, Ricciardo and finally Rosberg clocked the best times.
With 30 seconds to go, Raikkonen spun his Ferrari into the wall at Turn 4. The yellow flags meant that the drivers could not improve their times; including Vettel who ended up 12th.
The top six at the end of Q2 were: Rosberg, Ricciardo, Alonso, Hamilton, Magnussen and Hulkenberg.
The six drivers eliminated at the end of Q2 were: Button, Raikkonen, Vettel, Adrian Sutil (Sauber), Kobayashi and Sergio Perez (Force India.)
Q3 has been extended from 10 to 12 minutes this year so that the drivers can get more laps in.
The rain had returned and the track had more water on it than in Q2. The drivers, except Alonso, had extreme wet tires on their cars.
With 8 minutes remaining in the session, Rosberg set the first time: 1:45.550. Hamilton was second but then bounced into first with a 1:45.335.
With 5 minutes remaining in the session, the track started to dry. When would be the best time to switch to intermediate tires?
With 4 minutes remaining in the session, the drivers began to switch to inters. It was all going to be about who would be out on the track the latest as the surface dried.
With 2 minutes remaining in the session, Rosberg, on extreme wets, slid off the track. The top three were Hamilton, Rosberg and Ricciardo.
The top spot then changed as follows: Ricciardo, Hamilton, Rosberg, Ricciardo and finally Hamilton.
Kvyat crashed his Toro Rosso, and Magnusson slid off in his McLaren.
The top 10 qualifiers at the end of Q3 were: Hamilton, Ricciardo, Rosberg, Magnussen, Alonso, Vergne, Hulkenberg, Kvyat, Massa and Bottas. The latter would be given a grid place penalty because his car needed a new gearbox.