Australian GP - Qualifying analysis

By on Saturday, March 26, 2011

Everyone thought the new RB7 was fast. But nobody was expecting them to be as quick as they showed in today’s qualifying session.

Vettel’s pole lap of 1:23.529 was seven tenths of a second quicker than anyone else could manage, and then on the next lap he did a 1.23.6 just for good measure. Mark Webber was less impressive though as he could manage only 3rd. It looks like it might be a tough task for Webber to keep Vettel in check this season. The surprise of the weekend so far is unquestionably McLaren. Hamilton’s lap was enough to put him on the front row despite not using KERS. Although Red Bull didn’t use the device either, for reasons that Webber was unwilling to elaborate on.

For Ferrari, it was a slightly disappointing session as Fernando Alonso only managed 5th whilst Felipe Massa put in an abysmal performance. He was almost knocked out in Q1 and then in Q3 he managed to spin whilst exiting the pits. It’s not the start he or the team would want.

Mercedes’ performance was also underwhelming as Schumacher failed to make Q3. However, 11th on the grid is not necessarily the worst place to be as he is the first driver able to select which tyre compound to start the race on. It’s highly likely he’ll gamble on the hard tyre.

Toro Rosso proved that their pre-season pace was real by qualifying 10th and 12th whilst Sauber also enjoyed a productive day. Kamui Kobayashi was as exciting as ever on his way to 9th, with Sergio Perez set to line up 13th for his debut.

Fellow rookie drivers also had a good day. Maldonado managed a respectable 15th whilst Paul di Resta will start one place higher in his Force India. The more experienced drivers had a day to forget. Nick Heidfeld struggled and will start 18th but Barrichello made a worse mistake by spinning into the gravel at Turn 3. Save of the day arguably went to Adrian Sutil. Exiting the final turn he activated the DRS too quickly, sending the car spinning down the straight from which the German managed to keep the car out of the wall and pointing in the right direction.

At the tail of the grid, Lotus was disappointed with their performance, whilst Virgin was also abject. HRT though are set to miss the race after failing to make the 107% time. Liuzzi and Karthikeyan did do a respectable job given the circumstances.

Drive of the day though goes to Vitaly Petrov. After a dismal 2010 season, he starts 6th on the grid, 12 places ahead of his team mate.

Pos  Driver                Team                  Time             
 1.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault      1m23.529s
 2.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes      1m24.307s  + 0.778s
 3.  Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault      1m24.395s  + 0.866s
 4.  Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes      1m24.779s  + 1.250s
 5.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari               1m24.974s  + 1.445s
 6.  Vitaly Petrov         Renault               1m25.247s  + 1.718s
 7.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes              1m25.421s  + 1.892s
 8.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari               1m25.599s  + 2.070s
 9.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari        1m25.626s  + 2.097s
10.  Sebastien Buemi       Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1m27.066s  + 3.537s
Q2 cut-off time: 1m25.882s                          
11.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes              1m25.971s
12.  Jaime Alguersuari     Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1m26.103s
13.  Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari        1m26.108s
14.  Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes  1m26.739s
15.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Cosworth     1m26.768s
16.  Adrian Sutil          Force India-Mercedes  1m31.407s
17.  Rubens Barrichello    Williams-Cosworth
Q3 cut-off time: 1m27.222s                          
18.  Nick Heidfeld         Renault               1m27.239s
19.  Heikki Kovalainen     Lotus-Renault         1m29.254s
20.  Jarno Trulli          Lotus-Renault         1m29.342s
21.  Timo Glock            Virgin-Cosworth       1m29.858s
22.  Jerome D'Ambrosio     Virgin-Cosworth       1m30.822s

Did not qualify (107% time: 1m31.266s)
23.  Tonio Liuzzi          HRT-Cosworth          1m32.978s
24.  Narain Karthikeyan    HRT-Cosworth          1m34.293s

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