Grand Prix of Australia – Qualifying

It’s finally the start of the new F1 season, and there’s lots that’s new!

  • new logo
  • new theme tune
  • new driver protection, the haloForce India and McLaren have theirs sponsored by flip-flop manufacturers 🙂
  • new tyre compounds, adding pink “hypersoft” (softer than ultrasoft) and orange “superhard”, and changing the hard compound’s colour to blue (here’s a handy chart)
  • new technical regulations, most notably the limit of just two ERS and three engines (per driver per season); shark fins and T-Wings have been banned (again!); and the introduction of the halo
  • new drivers: Sergey Sirotkin joins Williams (alongside Lance Stroll), and reigning F2 champion Charles Leclerc joins Sauber (with Marcus Ericsson)
  • new colour schemes for McLaren and Sauber
  • new venue … OK, technically Circuit Paul Ricard isn’t new as it has hosted previously 14 Grands Prix but F1 hasn’t been there since 1990 (the most recent French Grand Prix was in 2008 at Magny-Cours); [2018 F1 calendar]
  • new start time! Races will start at 10 minutes past the hour, but free practice and qualifying sessions will still be on the hour

OK, and with all that said, it’s time to watch Qualifying 🙂

There’s an additional (3rd) DRS zone i
Pirelli tyre compounds for this race weekend are soft, supersoft and ultrasoft.

HAM was fastest in FP1 (1:24.026) and FP2 (1:23.931), but VET was quickest in a damp FP3 (1:28.067). Interesting to see ERI put his Sauber in P3 (in FP3) with the Mercedes pair down in P7 and P8, but then they may have been running different configurations – the only true comparison will come in qualifying and then of course in the race.

RIC has a 3 grid place penalty for speeding under a red flag, which was caused by a loose wire on the start/finish line. RIC says it’s harsh given it’s a new rule and he did drop his speed, but I think that given it’s safety-related he was lucky to only get a 3-place drop instead of the recommended 5 places.

Qualifying session 1 (Q1)
Air temperature 24°C; track 32°C; 58% humidity; wind 4.4km/hr
First out of the pit lane is HUL in the yellow Renault; he’s on the purple ultrasoft tyres
HUL 1:25.348
GRO 1:24.967
SAI 1:24.655
VET on the radio complaining that STR didn’t move out of his way
RAI 1:23.616
(VET P2)
(HAM P2)
(BOT P2)
ALO goes P5, just behind VET
RAI 1:23.096
(RIC P2)
(HAM P2)
Radio from ALO – sounds like he was dropped into neutral between turns 10 and 11
HAM 1:22.824
5mins left of Q1; bottom 5 are SIR, GAS, STR, LEC, HAR
Is there a DRS wing problem on BOT’s car? Looks like it activated, deactivated, then activated again
OCO jumps to P10, leaving teammate PER on the cusp of the cut-off
2mins left; bottom 5 are SIR, GAS, STR, LEC, HAR
PER now P10, putting ERI into the danger zone
Chequered flag
STR to P12, pushing ERI down to P16
HAR up to P16 but still out
LEC to P17
ERI reclaims P17
Back of the grid will be HAR, ERI, LEC, SIR, GAS

Qualifying session 2
VER leaves the pits on supersoft tyres; RIC does the same
Looks like Red Bull are making a tactical move for the race, starting their cars on longer-lasting supersofts … assuming they make it through to Q3
VER 1:22.830
RAI 1:22.507
(VET P2)
Big lock up from HUL; abandons his lap
HAM 1:22.051
Radio from ALO saying the sky is quite dark, wants to get 2nd run in quickly before the rain
5mins left; bottom 5 are STR, GRO, PER, HUL, OCO (no time yet from HUL & OCO)
Most cars on track for a final run – just VET in the pits … and now he’s heading out too
GRO P7, VAN P11
OCO P14
HUL P9, SAI P11
PER P13
SAI P7, ALO P11
OCO P15
VET 1:21.944
Middle of the grid: ALO, VAN, PER, STR, OCO

Qualifying session 3
Top 10 shootout is between VET, HAM, BOT, VER, RAI, RIC*, SAI, MAG, GRO and HUL
*remember RIC has a 3 grid spot penalty to be applied
It doesn’t appear to be as overcast as it was mid-Q2, but there’s no guarantee it’ll be dry throughout Q3
HAM first on track
BOT is in the wall! Red flags – session suspended
He ran wide in Turn 1, lost the tail and into the wall on the outside of Turn 2
Radio for BOT checking he’s ok; he confirms
There’s a lot of debris across the track, so it’ll take a while to clear up
Replay sounds like he was still accelerating as he hit the wall
BOT taken to the medical centre as a matter of protocol
Track is being cleaned; tyre wall checked for integrity
RIC sits at the pit exit, waiting for the session to resume
Marshals are holding the “slippery surface” at Turn 2
Radio for RIC warning him there might be hydraulic fluid in T2
HAM 1:22.051
RIC P2
VER P2
RAI P3
VET P2
Radio from VER – “I need more front grip”
Everyone heads for the pits
5mins left; order is HAM, VET, VER, RAI, RIC (rest have not set a time)
Just over 3 mins left as the cars head out for their final flying laps
GRO P6
MAG P6
SAI P8
Chequered flag
HUL P8
RIC P4
HAM 1:21.164
RAI P2
VER P3
VET P3
Front of the grid: HAM, RAI, VET, VER, RIC*, MAG, GRO, HUL, SAI, BOT**
*RIC has a 3 grid spot penalty to be applied
**BOT may receive penalties depending on what needs to be replaced following his crash

That’s a record 7th pole position in Australia for HAM

Provisional grid: HAM, RAI, VET, VER, MAG, GRO, HUL, RIC*, SAI, BOT**, ALO, VAN, PER, STR, OCO, HAR, ERI, LEC, SIR, GAS

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