Lewis Hamilton takes his 20th career Pole in Round 1 of the 2012 Formula One Championship at Melbourne’s Albert Park. Claiming pole with a scorching 1:24.922 lap time, the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes driver led home a one-two with Jenson Button sealing the second spot on the grid.
In third place was without doubt the driver or, story of the day - Romain Grosjean. Having been discarded by the team in its Renault days, the Lotus driver staged a solid comeback by outpacing his much fancied teammate Kimi Raikkonen. He went even better by finishing third in the timesheets with an impressive 1:25.302 lap.
It was a bright and sunny day in Albert Park when green LEDs lit up the pit lane light to signal the start of the 2012 Formula 1 season. First out were the slow runners namely Hispania Racing and Marussia. While the HRT drivers slowly felt their way around, Timo Glock and Charles Pic began setting some times. None were competitive however and they soon found themselves being relegated from Q2.
It remains to see if HRT will even be allowed to start the race tomorrow given that they didn’t set a time within the 107% Qualifying rule. A tough opening session for Narain Karthikeyan and Pedro da la Rosa. Kimi had a scary moment just before his final run that cost him the lap and eventually the chance to get into Q2 - the first of the World Champions to be relegated. Vitaly Petrov and Heikki Kovalainen too, played no further part in Qualifying with their Caterham-Renaults.
The session started with the Sauber of Kamui Kobayashi on provisional Pole. It wasn’t going to stay that way though. Fernando Alonso spun into the gravel traps of Turn 1 much to Ferrari’s disappointment. Driver error seemed to be the cause of the spin as he put his left wheels on the grass trying to negotiate an optimum braking point. World Champion number two was out of Qualifying!
Red flag and the session was stopped while Marshals recovered the stricken Ferrari.
Felipe Massa was asked anxiously by the team to bring in heat into the front tyres before his next flying lap. The mood was getting intense. Topping the timesheets were four Mercedes engine cars. Clearly things were going the way of the German manufacturer.
Do Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull have something left?
Nico Rosberg sets out of the pit lane first. The TV cameras follow his lap closely. The PETRONAS Mercedes looks nicely dialled into the circuit. Could it be their year?
Rosberg leads out Schumacher who leads out Hamilton and Button. Hamilton sets a blistering 1:24:922 time. One that could never be lowered ultimately.
With 2 minutes and 53secs to go, local hero Mark Webber pushes the limits of his car almost scraping the wall at full throttle. He takes P2! The crowd are up on their feet cheering his attempt. But the McLaren driver had it in the bag and was never challenged.
Q3 ended with Hamilton fastest followed by Button, a heroic effort from Grosjean who was closely followed by Schumacher and Webber. Sebastian Vettel out-qualified by his teammate, led Nico Rosberg and Pastor Maldonado for Williams, Nico Hulkenberg for Force India and Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo.
The Australian earlier on entertained television audiences with spectacular footage from his helmet camera. Something Formula 1 very clearly needs, to heighten the broadcast to its fans. In tomorrow’s race will Romain Grosjean upset the balance from third on the grid or, will he be swamped by the Germans Schumacher and Vettel right behind him? Can Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso stage exciting fight backs from the middle and tail of the pack? Or, will Lewis Hamilton and McLaren reign supreme.
Much has been said about the ugly stepped-down nose cones of this season’s cars. Most engineers agree that it’s the car that wins that is deemed most beautiful at the end of the day. However, it’s unanimous that the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes MP427 is the most beautiful car on the grid so far. And it’s on Pole position at Albert Park.
Bring on Sunday!