Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton claimed the 50th pole position of his Formula 1 career when he set the fastest time during today’s qualifying session for the Australian F1 Grand Prix at the Albert Park circuit in Melbourne.

The new elimination format qualifying system, designed to provide more excitement during the session, failed dismally as most drivers only went out for one quick lap during Q3 and then sat in the pits while the elimination clock counted down. As Damon Hill said on SkyF1, “irony is Lewis could’ve waved his own chequered flag for pole position.”

Marcus Ericsson

Image by Sauber F1 Team

The opening session proved to be quite busy as the drivers all went out to get a “banker” lap in before the countdown to elimination clock started after seven minutes.Pascal Wehrlein in the Manor Mercedes became the first man to be eliminated under the new system. He was joined on the sidelines by team mate Rio Haryato 90 seconds later.

Esteban Gutierrez and Romain Grosjean were next to go. Although the Haas drivers were possibly quick enough to make it through to Q2, the clock ticked over to the next 90 second elimination before they could complete the laps they were on. A similar fate befell Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat who was next to go.

The Saubers of Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson were the last to be eliminated in Q1.

Fernando Alonso

Image by McLaren / LAT Photographic

In Q2 it was the Renaults that were first to be eliminated. Both of them set a lap time but didn’t have enough time to change tyres and get round again to improve on the time. Kevin Magnussen was first to go with Jolyon Palmer joining him 90 seconds later.

The McLarens of Jensen Button and Fernando Alonso, who also set times but didn’t go back out to try and better them, were next to go.

An error in the final corner while he was on a quick lap saw Valtteri Bottas and his Williams added to the list of those eliminated while the Force India drivers, Sergio Perez in ninth and Nico Hulkenberg in tenth, opted not to run again and be the first of the cars on the grid with tyre choice for tomorrow’s race.

In the final session everyone went out and set a time and, with the exception of Nico Rosberg who did another lap to move from fourth to second on the grid, returned to the garage where they waited for the session to end.

Two drivers have picked up grid penalties and will drop from their qualifying spots. Valtteri Bottas will drop to 16th place from eleventh after and unscheduled gearbox change while Manor rookie Rio Haryanto will start from the back of the grid after receiving a three place penalty for his pit-lane collision with Romain Grosjean in FP3.

The provisional starting grid is Hamilton, Rosberg; Vettel, Raikkonen; Verstappen, Massa; Sainz, Ricciardo; Perez, Hulkenberg; Alonso, Button; Palmer, Magnussen; Ericsson, Bottas; Nasr, Kvyat; Grosjean, Gutierrez; Wehrlein, Haryanto.