Lewis Hamilton took a sixth consecutive pole at Albert Park as Mercedes dominated the first qualifying session of the 2019 season. We take a look at all the stats and stories from Saturday at the Australian Grand Prix!
Q U A L I F Y I N G R E C A P
Charles Leclerc topped the opening qualifying session by 0.026 seconds ahead of the Mercedes pair. Pierre Gasly was a surprise elimination on debut for Red Bull. The team had been confident that the Frenchman had done enough to get through to Q2, but the track evolution saw him qualify only seventeenth. Carlos Sainz was also eliminated in Q1 on his first appearance with McLaren as a result of yellow flags caused by Robert Kubica. Kubica recorded his first Q1 exit since the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix after colliding with the wall at the exit of Turn 10. The Pole picked up a puncture as a result, leaving him unable to improve his lap time. Williams recorded their first ever double Q1 exit at the Australian Grand Prix, and will fill the last row on the grid. Lance Stroll was the other elimination. Just one second separated the top sixteen in Q1.
Mercedes began to show their advantage in Q2, as Lewis Hamilton broke the Albert Park track record. Both Renault drivers were eliminated in the session, Nico Hulkenberg qualified eleventh and missed out on a spot in Q2 by only 0.030 seconds, while Daniel Ricciardo was out-qualified by his team-mate by eight thousandths of a second. Both Toro Rosso drivers were eliminated, while Antonio Giovinazzi qualified fourteenth for Alfa Romeo. Racing Point and McLaren progressed to Q3 for the first time at the track since 2014, while Kimi Raikkonen enabled Alfa Romeo to break into the top ten in Melbourne for the first time since 2011.
Lando Norris was the surprise name in Q3, as he qualified in eighth on his Formula 1 debut. Haas had a good day, qualifying in sixth and seventh for a second year in succession at Albert Park. After their first laps in the final part of qualifying, it was Valtteri Bottas who led the way, holding a huge half a second advantage over his team-mate. In the end, Hamilton put the lap together when it mattered to take pole by over a tenth. Mercedes locked-out the front row, while Sebastian Vettel qualified third and Max Verstappen split the Ferrari pair.
The Ultimate Pace
Mercedes dominated qualifying, setting the fastest sector time in all three sectors. While Hamilton flew in the first and final parts of the track – half a tenth quicker than his team-mate in those two zones – Bottas was almost a full tenth faster (0.085 seconds) than Hamilton through the middle sector. The gap between the pair’s ultimate pace was a tiny 0.006 seconds when their three sector times were added together. The third fastest time in each sector, set by Verstappen in the first sector and Vettel in the final two, was over two tenths off the time set by the leading Mercedes – aside from in the final sector, where the gap between Mercedes and Ferrari was a slightly smaller 0.123 seconds.
By adding each drivers’ best three sector times together, we can get an idea of who put a lap together when it mattered, and who failed to pull all three sectors into one fast lap. Lewis Hamilton, Pierre Gasly, Carlos Sainz and George Russell were the only four drivers to set all three of their fastest three sector times on their fastest qualifying lap. Valtteri Bottas, Nico Hulkenberg and Kimi Raikkonen were all over one tenth off their best potential time, while Robert Kubica was a huge 0.670 seconds away from his best potential time, which can be explained by him picking up a puncture on his final qualifying lap and thus aborting the attempt. Comparing their actual lap times to each driver’s best potential lap times, there would be no changes of position in the top eight. Behind that however, the biggest gainers would have been Hulkenberg, who had enough pace to qualify tenth overall, and Antonio Giovinazzi, who would move up from fourteenth to eleventh on the final grid. The lap times are compared in the table below:
|Pos||Driver||Qualifying Time||Ultimate Pace||Difference||Ultimate Pace|
The team-mate battles
There was plenty of intrigue around a number of team-mate battles heading into the weekend. While Charles Leclerc topped the times in Q1, Sebastian Vettel out-performed his team-mate in each of the last two sessions. Neither Renault driver reached the final part of qualifying, but it’s Nico Hulkenberg who will start ahead of Daniel Ricciardo in the Grand Prix. Perhaps the most impressive fact from today’s qualifying is that all the 2018 F2 drivers beat their more experienced team-mates on their qualifying début in Formula 1. Alexander Albon was able to qualify in front of the returning Daniil Kvyat, George Russell out-qualified Robert Kubica after the Pole slammed his FW42 into the wall, picking up a puncture, while Carlos Sainz was caught out by the yellow flags as a result of the Williams driver’s incident, meaning Lando Norris out-qualified the Spaniard with relative ease. Norris was perhaps the star of Saturday in Melbourne, getting a McLaren car into the top ten at the track for the first time since 2014.
Largest gaps in each session:
Q1: Russell 1.707s faster than Kubica
Q2: Raikkonen 0.365s faster than Giovinazzi
Q3: Grosjean 0.273s faster than Magnussen
Gap between team-mates in last session where each driver set a time:
Looking at each driver’s ultimate pace also offers an interesting glimpse into who was fastest in each sector in each team. The results can be found in the table below. It shows that while Alexander Albon out-qualified Daniil Kvyat, the Russian actually beat Albon in two of three sectors. Charles Leclerc, Pierre Gasly, Carlos Sainz, Lance Stroll and Robert Kubica were beaten by their team-mate in all three sectors of track, while Kevin Magnussen’s fastest final sector time – the only one in which he beat Romain Grosjean – was only 0.003 seconds faster than the Frenchman’s time.
Find all the team-mate battle statistics for the 2019 season here!
Mercedes’ closest competitors in qualifying were Ferrari, though Red Bull were quicker than the Italian team in the first sector. Ferrari were over seven tenths away from Mercedes’ ultimate pace with Sebastian Vettel’s fastest lap, though if you add Vettel and Charles Leclerc’s best sector times together, they produce a lap time which was 0.656 seconds away from the pole time. Red Bull were the only other team within a second of Mercedes’ best time, with Max Verstappen’s best three sector times being 0.905 seconds slower than Mercedes’ collective fastest times. Haas were fourth fastest, and even had the third quickest car in the middle sector, while Alfa Romeo were fifth quickest in all three parts of the track.
The driver who out-performed their car the most today was Sergio Perez. The Racing Point car was the seventh fastest car in Sector 1, the ninth fastest in Sector 2 and the eighth fastest in Sector 3, yet Perez still managed to qualify in the top ten.
There are no prizes for guessing who was slowest. Williams set the slowest time in all three sectors – sixth tenths off the ninth fastest team (Toro Rosso) in Sector 1, four tenths off Racing Point in Sector 2 and eight tenths off Toro Rosso in the final sector. The team qualified within 107% of the fastest time in Q1, so are able to start tomorrow’s race.
|GAP TO POLE|
About the above table: the ‘gap to ultimate pace’ column shows the gap between the team’s best three sector times added together and the overall best three sector times added together. The ‘gap to pole time’ column shows the gap between the team’s best three sector times added together and the lap time of the polesitter.
Improvements between 2018 and 2019
Every team except Williams was faster in qualifying for the 2019 Australian Grand Prix than in qualifying for the 2018 Australian Grand Prix. We’ve worked this out by adding each team’s best three sector times together in the 2018 qualifying hour and comparing it to their 2019 counterparts. Alfa Romeo (Sauber last year) were the most improved, with their best potential lap time being 2.253 seconds faster this year than last year. Toro Rosso were also over two seconds quicker than last season. Williams were the only team to be slower in qualifying this year than last year, with their best potential time being 0.176 seconds slower than their potential best in 2018. You can see the full data below:
All set for Sunday:
It seems that we are all set for a fascinating opening race of the season. Will Mercedes win the opening round of the year for the first time since 2016? Can Ferrari take the lead, or can Max Verstappen get amongst the leaders? Will Renault be able to score? Can Lando Norris pick up points on debut? And what can Pierre Gasly do from near the back of the field? There are so many questions to be answered. Remember, Lewis Hamilton has taken pole here every season since 2014, but has won only once during that time. Saturday is definitely only half of the story in Melbourne.
In the Lucky and Unlucky Grid Positions:
LUCKY: 2nd: Valtteri Bottas 3rd: Sebastian Vettel 10th: Sergio Perez 11th: Nico Hulkenberg 13th: Alexander Albon 15th: Daniil Kvyat 16th: Lance Stroll
2nd: Valtteri Bottas
3rd: Sebastian Vettel
10th: Sergio Perez
11th: Nico Hulkenberg
13th: Alexander Albon
15th: Daniil Kvyat
16th: Lance Stroll
UNLUCKY: 5th: Charles Leclerc 12th: Daniel Ricciardo 14th: Antonio Giovinazzi 19th: George Russell 20th: Robert Kubica
5th: Charles Leclerc
12th: Daniel Ricciardo
14th: Antonio Giovinazzi
19th: George Russell
20th: Robert Kubica
Find out what makes each grid position lucky or unlucky here!
Nicky Haldenby is a freelance writer from Scarborough, England. After graduating from the University of Hull in 2015 with a First Class honours degree in English Language and Literature, Nicky, a lifelong fan of Formula 1, founded the Lights Out F1 Blog in 2016. Now in its fourth season, the blog has become a firm fan-favourite, delving deep into the sport’s history books and lifting the cover on unusual F1 statistics. Nicky also writes at F1Destinations, and sister site GPDestinations, where he shares regular race previews and articles focussed around the latest in Formula 1 calendar and venue news. In 2017 and 2018, he wrote for Badger GP. Nicky can also be heard regularly as a guest on various Formula 1 radio shows and podcasts.