Lewis Hamilton starts where he left off from the 2018 season by claiming his sixth pole position at Melbourneʻs Albert Park. If you donʻt recall, Hamilton closed out last year by claiming pole and winning the race at Abu Dhabi to add an exclamation point to his fifth championship. After testing in Barcelona, it appeared that Mercedes might be just a tick behind Ferrari and that Hamilton would be facing a greater challenge to his reign.
Instead, the closest competitor on the grid was Hamiltonʻs teammate, Valtteri Bottas who claimed second on the grid a little over a tenth behind Hamiltonʻs time (1:20:486). Ferrariʻs Sebastian Vettel took the third spot almost 0.7 seconds behind Hamilton. Max Verstappen, of Red Bull, will start fourth with the second Ferrari of Charles Leclerc behind in fifth.
The qualifying session played out in a rather clean fashion with only Robert Kubica, in his return to the sport, taking his Williams for a drive off the track but not sustaining any damage. For Kubica, Williams and their second driver, George Russell, qualifying backed up everything that they anticipated as they filled the bottom two spots on the grid and donʻt look competitive. Whether or not team principal Jean Todtʻs absence is being felt by the team could be argued as they have faced financial woes for the past few seasons, but this kind of start to the season is ominous.
The Haas Ferrariʻs of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen paired up to take the sixth and seventh spots on the grid, which came as little shock owing to the strength of the Ferrari engine and continued improvements with the team as they enter their fourth year of racing.
The surprise of the qualifying session came in the form of Lando Norris, debuting in F1 with McLaren, who made his way to Q3 and snagged the eighth position. The once-proud organization has been frustratingly slow for the past three years and Norrisʻ performance may give some semblance of hope – though that hope might be countered by his teammateʻs placing of 18th.
The team that should be concerned with their placement must be Renault who could muster only the 11th and 12th positions. The big splash in driver movement came with Daniel Ricciardo switching from Red Bull to Renault but there was nothing to bring continued excitement, especially to the Australianʻs home crowd, when he took 12th. This year is supposed to be one where they take what should be considered a step forward and begin to challenge for podiums but this kind of struggle looks to portend a difficult season ahead.
One of the more curious team splits on the grid is that of Red Bull. As they make their debut with Honda for the season, Verstappen looked in fine form by taking fourth, but Pierre Gasly, having been promoted from the sister team Toro Rosso, failed to get out of Q1, and will start in 17th. With a new engine and driver, Red Bull will be a fascinating team to watch, both to see how Honda has progressed in developing their F1 engine but also to see if Gasly is the talent that the team believes him to be.
The first was held in 1928 and after gaps in racing has run each consecutive year since 1947. Beginning in 1996, F1 moved to Melbourne’s Albert Park, a site that was contested by protest to save the park and a response to motorsport taking over a green space. The temporary track is relatively flat and the course is comprised of 16 turns and is 3.295 miles in length.
Michael Schumacher leads all drivers with four wins, while Sebastian Vettel leads active drivers with three wins, his most recent coming last year when he started the season with a shot across the bow to Hamiltons. Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton both have two wins apiece in Melbourne.
|4||33||Max Verstappen||RED BULL RACING HONDA||1:22.876||1:21.678||1:21.320||17|
|6||8||Romain Grosjean||HAAS FERRARI||1:22.959||1:21.870||1:21.826||17|
|7||20||Kevin Magnussen||HAAS FERRARI||1:22.519||1:22.221||1:22.099||18|
|8||4||Lando Norris||MCLAREN RENAULT||1:22.702||1:22.423||1:22.304||21|
|9||7||Kimi Räikkönen||ALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI||1:22.966||1:22.349||1:22.314||17|
|10||11||Sergio Perez||RACING POINT BWT MERCEDES||1:22.908||1:22.532||1:22.781||15|
|13||23||Alexander Albon||SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA||1:22.757||1:22.636||14|
|14||99||Antonio Giovinazzi||ALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI||1:22.431||1:22.714||14|
|15||26||Daniil Kvyat||SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA||1:22.511||1:22.774||13|
|16||18||Lance Stroll||RACING POINT BWT MERCEDES||1:23.017||6|
|17||10||Pierre Gasly||RED BULL RACING HONDA||1:23.020||6|
|18||55||Carlos Sainz||MCLAREN RENAULT||1:23.084||6|
|19||63||George Russell||WILLIAMS MERCEDES||1:24.360||9|
|20||88||Robert Kubica||WILLIAMS MERCEDES||1:26.067||8|