McLaren 1-2 ends Red Bull dominance in qualifying

By on Saturday, March 17, 2012

It will be an all-McLaren front row to the grid for the Australian Grand Prix, the opening round of the Formula 1 World Championship. Lewis Hamilton took pole in a time of 1:24.922 ahead of team-mate Jenson Button (1:25.074). Third place at the Albert Park circuit went to the Lotus of Romain Grosjean (1:25.302).

The McLaren drivers and beaming returnee Romain Grosjean on Saturday looked to have knocked Red Bull from its dominant perch.

"McLaren had an upgrade at the last test and it's performed here at Albert Park," said former team driver and BBC commentator David Coulthard.

Lewis Hamilton beat his teammate Jenson Button to pole in Melbourne, but just a few tenths behind is the reigning GP2 champion Grosjean.

Frenchman Grosjean's teammate Kimi Raikkonen had a dire return qualifying performance by missing the Q1 cut, describing the session as "shit" according to the German press.

In total contrast, Grosjean was beaming: "A few people believed in me through the toughest time and I'm back -- almost at the top!"

The surprises continued beyond the top three: Mercedes' Michael Schumacher is fourth, and reigning champion Sebastian Vettel sixth.

"We are aware we need to improve," said Mark Webber, who qualified the sister Red Bull in fifth as both RB8 cars had KERS issues.

In much bigger strife is fabled Ferrari, with neither F2012 making it through to Q3. The two F2012s will face an uphill struggle, as Fernando Alonso (1:26.494) ended up stuck in a gravel trap shortly after the start of Q2 and starts from twelfth place, while Felipe Massa qualified sixteenth in 1:27.497. Sky analyst Martin Brundle described the handling of the F2012 as "horrible".

"Forget the reds," the summary report at Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport website, written by correspondent Andrea Cremonesi, said.

Said Spaniard Alonso: "We need to change the direction quickly if we're to challenge for the championship. We have to react."

Meanwhile, Lotus boss Eric Boullier answered "maybe" when asked on Sky UK television if the team will lodge an official protest against Mercedes' qualifying result, based on the belief the W03's F-duct solutions are illegal.

Pos Driver Team Time Gap
 1.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes      1m24.922s
 2.  Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes      1m25.074s  + 0.152
 3.  Romain Grosjean       Lotus-Renault         1m25.302s  + 0.380
 4.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes              1m25.336s  + 0.414
 5.  Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault      1m25.651s  + 0.729
 6.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault      1m25.668s  + 0.746
 7.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes              1m25.686s  + 0.764
 8.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Renault      1m25.908s  + 0.986
 9.  Nico Hulkenberg       Force India-Mercedes  1m26.451s  + 1.529
10.  Daniel Ricciardo      Toro Rosso-Ferrari    No time
Q2 cut-off time: 1m26.319s                   Gap **
11.  Jean-Eric Vergne      Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1m26.429s  + 0.960
12.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari               1m26.4942  + 1.025
13.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari        1m26.590s  + 1.121
14.  Bruno Senna           Williams-Renault      1m26.663s  + 1.194
15.  Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes  1m27.086s  + 1.617
16.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari               1m27.497s  + 2.028
17.  Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari        No time
Q1 cut-off time: 1m27.633s                 Gap *
18.  Kimi Raikkonen        Lotus-Renault         1m27.758s  + 1.576
19.  Heikki Kovalainen     Caterham-Renault      1m28.679s  + 2.497
20.  Vitaly Petrov         Caterham-Renault      1m29.018s  + 2.836
21.  Timo Glock            Marussia-Cosworth     1m30.923s  + 4.741
22.  Charles Pic           Marussia-Cosworth     1m31.670s  + 5.488
23.  Pedro de la Rosa      HRT-Cosworth          1m33.495s  + 7.313
24.  Narain Karthikeyan    HRT-Cosworth          1m33.643s  + 7.461

107% time: 1m32.214s
* Gap to quickest in Q1
** Gap to quickest in Q2

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