New year, same old story. Sebastian Vettel started his third straight world title defence in the best possible fashion as he convincingly took pole for the Australian Grand Prix.
Vettel’s lap of 1:27.407 was four tenths quicker than Red Bull teammate Mark Webber, as the German made the best use of a rapidly drying track to top the times.
Lewis Hamilton produced a good lap on his Mercedes debut and will start third, ahead of the two Ferraris of Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso, with Massa outqualifying his more illustrious teammate for the third race in succession.
Nico Rosberg qualified sixth, but he will be disappointed with his final grid slot after he set the quickest time in both Q1 and Q2, and had looked a real contender for pole until the end of the top ten shoot-out.
The Lotus pairing of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean share the fourth row, with Paul di Resta and Jenson Button rounding out the top ten.
In the first qualifying session to be split over two days since the 2005 Monaco Grand Prix, the water that had saturated the circuit and caused Saturday’s effort at finding the polesitter to be abandoned after Q1 remained on Sunday morning, with the cars taking to the track on intermediate tyres.
With the track drying rapidly towards the end of Q2, the times tumbled in the final minute of the session. Nico Hulkenberg crossed the start-finish line at just the wrong moment, denying himself the chance of an extra lap and will start 11th. He shares the sixth row with compatriot Adrian Sutil, whilst the Toro Rosso’s of Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo start 13th and 14th.
Sergio Perez fell victim to a disastrous strategic call by McLaren to put him onto slick tyres too early, with 15th place being an incredibly disappointing performance for the Mexican on his debut for the Woking squad. He shares row eight with Williams rookie Valtteri Bottas.
On Saturday Pastor Maldonado and Esteban Gutierrez had become the two bigname casualties of the first part of qualifying, with Jules Bianchi, Max Chilton, Giedo van der Garde and Charles Pic joining them on the sidelines on Sunday morning.
1) Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Red Bull-Renault – 1:27.407
2) Mark Webber (Aus) Red Bull-Renault – 1:27.827
3) Lewis Hamilton (GB) Mercedes – 1:28.087
4) Felipe Massa (Bra) Ferrari – 1:28.390
5) Fernando Alonso (Esp) Ferrari – 1:28.393
6) Nico Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes – 1:28.523
7) Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Lotus-Renault – 1:28.738
8) Romain Grosjean (Fra) Lotus-Renault – 1:29.013
9) Paul di Resta (GB) Force India-Mercedes – 1:29.305
10) Jenson Button (GB) McLaren-Mercedes – 1:30.357
11) Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Sauber-Ferrari – 1:38.067
12) Adrian Sutil (Ger) Force India-Mercedes – 1:38.134
13) Jean-Eric Vergne (Fra) Toro Rosso-Ferrari – 1:38.778
14) Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Toro Rosso-Ferrari – 1:39.042
15) Sergio Perez (Mex) McLaren-Mercedes – 1:39.900
16) Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Williams-Renault – 1:40.290
17) Pastor Maldonado (Ven) Williams-Renault – 1:47.614
18) Esteban Gutierrez (Mex) Sauber-Ferrari – 1:47.776
19) Jules Bianchi (Fra) Caterham-Renault – 1:48.147
20) Max Chilton (GB) Marussia-Cosworth – 1:48.909
21) Giedo van der Garde (Ned) Caterham-Renault – 1:49.519
22) Charles Pic (Fra) Caterham-Renault – 1:50.626