2014 Australian Grand Prix: Saturday Analysis

Exciting was the buzz word in Melbourne today, as a heavy rain shower added to the spectacle and created one of the best Qualifying sessions in recent memory. Tomorrow’s grid is set for a scintillating race, with Lewis Hamilton claiming Pole. However, the real winners today were the Australian fans, as Daniel Ricciardo snatched P2, to prevent a Mercedes front row lockout – Considering their pre-season form, the team have over-achieved so far this weekend. Meanwhile, all was not well for Daniel’s teammate and four time World Champion, Sebastian Vettel, as the German dropped out of Q2 and will start in P13.

Check out Sky Sports F1’s photo gallery for today’s action 

The Stage Is Set…

After one of the best qualifying sessions in recent memory, the stage is set for an enthralling spectacle tomorrow and with yet more rain forecast, it could be a classic race. It was always anticipated that the Mercedes duo would be quick, yet when the rain began to fall, the playing field was somewhat levelled and Daniel Ricciardo was ready for the challenge. Ricciardo performed admirably throughout Q1, Q2 and Q3, and was a feature of the top of the timesheet. While Sebastian Vettel’s demise was prompted by an unfortunate yellow flag as a result of Kimi Raikkonen’s accident, Daniel covered his more experienced teammate in each and every lap. Vettel was noticeably more aggressive behind the wheel, (perhaps a product of a suggested sensor issue,) while Ricciardo was smooth and considered. Ultimately, he was value for his front row slot.
Speaking afterwards to Sky Sports F1, he stated; “The engineer was always on the radio saying the pace was good and that we were P1, P2, P3 and in the battle for the pole position, so it was definitely a really nice first qualifying session with the team. I’m happy for us to have a front row start – it wasn’t looking like this a few weeks ago, so I’m pretty pleased right now.” With two Mercedes in close proximity, it appears that Red Bull will favour rain tomorrow, as Mercedes’ pace in the dry looks to be far superior. However, rain seems to be more of a probability now as oppose to the possibility that it was 24 hours ago.
While Lewis Hamilton’s pole position became somewhat less of a headline, it was the Brit’s 32nd of his career, which places him alongside Nigel Mansell in the all-time pole position stakes. While his lap may not have been as collected as Ricciardo’s, it was sublime to watch, as Lewis wrestled the W05 and was on the limit, in his infamous style. “It’s been an interesting weekend so far here in Melbourne,” Lewis stated. “Qualifying was a lot harder for everyone with the tricky conditions and it was a real challenge out there today. We were on the edge with the tyres and it was difficult to know which way to go at times. It’s the first time I’ve driven the car on the limit in the wet, but it felt great and I’m so happy with the job the team has done.” One thing I have noticed about Hamilton this weekend is his attitude – He seems to have an incredible focus, refraining from the usual buoyant celebrations for another pole position, with an understated team radio call of, “was that enough.” Perhaps this is his new attitude which he has been talking about throughout the winter.

Rise of the Young Blood

Meanwhile, Kevin Magnussen was one of a number of rookies who impressed today, as he took the MP4-29 to P4 on the grid. Interestingly, McLaren’s last rookie to qualify P4 on his career début was a certain Lewis Hamilton back in 2007. K-Mag as pundits have referred to, out-qualified an unfortunate Jenson Button, who could only manage P11, after the yellow flags in Q2 ruined his final lap. Despite being in P4, Magnussen has issued caution to those who think that a podium is on the cards for the Dane tomorrow, suggesting that rain is the team’s only hope of breaking into the top three. I see Kevin is already trained in the driver art of downplaying ones chances.
While Daniil Kvyat was out-qualified by his experienced counterpart Jean-Eric Vergne, the rookie managed a remarkable P8, (with Vergne in a career best P4.) The STR9 came alive in the wet conditions and despite a clumsy scrape with the barriers at the end of Q3, Kvyat was elated with his grid position. “This was a very good session for us and I really didn’t expect to be qualifying 8th at my first Grand Prix two months ago. This is definitely a big step forward and I’m very happy for the team, who did a fantastic job also from the strategy side.”
It has been a great day for the rookies, while the experienced names have faltered. However, with rain forecast tomorrow and fuel consumption being a topic of concern, experience will surly show through.

Tomorrow’s Grid

1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
2 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull
3 Nico Rosberg Mercedes
4 Kevin Magnussen McLaren
5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari
6 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso
7 Nico Hulkenberg Force India
8 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso
9 Felipe Massa Williams
10 Jenson Button McLaren
11 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari
12 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull
13 Adrian Sutil Sauber
14 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham
15 Valtteri Bottas Williams *
16 Sergio Perez Force India
17 Max Chilton Marussia
18 Jules Bianchi Marussia
19 Marcus Ericsson Caterham
20 Romain Grosjean Lotus
21 Pastor Maldonado Lotus
22 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber *

* Gearbox change penalty        

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