Following his world championship win last season, Lewis Hamilton did not miss a beat of continuing for his third championship, by winning pole with a 1:26:327 fastest lap, defeating his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg by over six tenths of a second for Sunday’s Grand Prix of Australia at Albert Park. William’s Felipe Massa was third.
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“It’s been a great start to the weekend and, honestly, it doesn’t feel like such a long time since the last race!” Exclaimed Hamilton, speaking to journalists. “It’s been a huge effort from all the guys and girls at the factories to have this kind of performance from our car and I feel very blessed to have the opportunity to drive it. I’ve worked hard with the engineers yesterday and today to find a good balance. Then, in the session, I just tried to push hard and put the pieces together. It’s so much fun when it works right, because this is the competition that I live for.”
Despite the first qualifying period of the season, the opening session did not have too many takers for four minutes before the first cars were out onto the circuit, not to mention the sudden wind changes that were coming out of turns one and two that were making the drivers cautious.
For the Manor and McLaren Honda teams, it was a session they both would like to forget. McLaren Honda’s woes were not surprising. Following their short tests during the pre-season tests last month, Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen, who was filling in for Fernando Alonso, could do no better than 17th and 18th, respectively. But Manor were even worse, not even coming out of the garage at all, due to the lack of data. Toro Rosso rookies Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jr. stunned everyone by placing fourth and seventh, although it was only the first session. Hamilton began the day on a good note, taking the best opening session time of 1:28:586.
Changing skies threatened the second session, but the rain never happened as Hamilton again dominated with a time of 1:26:894. Dani Kvyat, Nico Hulkeneberg, Sergio Perez, Verstappen and Felipe Nasr, who just missed out the top ten final qualifying period, failed to advance.
However, in the final session, Hamilton was simply too dominant, and the Briton managed to set his fastest time for pole just seconds before the end of the final session. As for the rest of the grid, Sebastian Vettel will start the race from the fourth position, right alongside Massa. His Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen will begin in fifth, while another Finn, Valterri Bottas, suffering from a bad back, will start sixth. Hometown hero Daniel Ricciardo, despite a problem with his engine, finished in seventh, with another Renault engine car, driven by Sainz Jr., who took eighth. Lotus drivers Roamain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado rounded up the top ten, finishing in ninth and tenth, respectively.
Hamilton was pretty pleased but realized that there was still the race to run.
"I’m immensely grateful to everybody at Mercedes for the hard work that has gone into it so far. But there is still a lot to do tonight to study for the race tomorrow because it will be a huge challenge to try and fight for the win. We will be working as hard as we can to make sure we have a good race."