MELBOURNE, Australia – Lewis Hamilton began Formula One racing’s new 1.6-litre turbo era on the right note, earning the pole for the season opening Australian Grand Prix at a wet Albert Park on Saturday in his Mercedes.
Hamilton ruined a fairy tale moment for Red Bull rookie and Australian native Daniel Ricciardo. Hamilton gambled by staying on wet tires, allowing him to deny Ricciardo’s pole bid. Ricciardo had opted to try intermediates, but the switch didn’t pay off.
“It’s been an interesting weekend,” Hamilton said. “Today, it made it so much harder for everyone with the conditions. I’m really happy for the job the team did. You know these new cars are so much harder to drive in the wet and it was the first time for me driving in the wet, as I’m sure it was for a lot of people.”
It was wet enough for full wets in Q3 and the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg set the early pace before Hamilton displaced him. But once they switched to intermediates, it was Ricciardo who went back ahead, only to be beaten in turn by Hamilton and then Rosberg. The German seemed to have it sewn up with a 1:4.762, but there were huge cheers from the grandstands as local favorite Ricciardo beat that with 1:44.595. But Red Bull’s celebrations were cut short as Hamilton reset the ante with 1:44.231.
Behind them was another impressive rookie. Kevin Magnussen took fourth for McLaren with 1:45.745. Fernando Alonso was fifth for Ferrari, followed by Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne in sixth and rookie Daniil Kvyat in eighth despite a late tangle with the barriers. Nico Hulkenberg split them in seventh in the lead Force India.
Williams drivers Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas in ninth and tenth respectively.
You’ll have to go all the way down to 13th to find defending World Champion Sebastian Vettel, who was unable to advance out of Q2. Two other former World Champions – Jenson Button for McLaren and Kimi Raikkonen for Ferrari – will start just ahead of Vettel in 11th and 12th.