By Daniel Wilson.
Lewis Hamilton drew first blood in the defence of his world title as he produced a stunning lap to take pole position ahead of tomorrow’s season opening Australian Grand Prix.
The Briton’s time of 1:26.327 was nearly six tenths of a second quicker than teammate Nico Rosberg, who again looks to be the only driver set to challenge Hamilton for the championship this year as Mercedes exert their dominance.
The German driver bailed out of his first Q3 attempt after running wide at the penultimate corner, and lost valuable time in the first sector on the final run.
Felipe Massa won a close battle for best of the rest as he qualified third ahead of the Ferrari’s of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen, but his Williams was a staggering 1.4 seconds slower than Hamilton’s Mercedes.
Valterri Bottas was left disappointed in sixth as a harsh ride over the bump on the exit of the final corner lost him crucial time, and as a result, an injury to his back could force him to withdraw from tomorrow’s race.
Home favorite Daniel Ricciardo managed seventh as Red Bull’s problems increased with teammate Daniil Kvyat knocked out of Q2 in 13th place.
Carlos Sainz Jr impressed on his debut after putting his Toro Rosso in eighth, ahead of the Lotus drivers, Sauber’s Felipe Nasr and teammate Max Verstappen.
Debutante Felipe Nasr showed off his ability as he beat teammate Marcus Ericsson into Q2, as the Swedish driver could only manage 16th behind the struggling Force India cars.
However, the back row of the grid will be occupied by McLaren Honda as both drivers were knocked out in Q1 – the first for the team since 2009, as they were more than five seconds off the pace.
The fact that Manor Marussia did not take part in qualifying seemed to compound McLaren’s fate in the first session, as a number of software issues means they will not run in Melbourne.
Despite this, CEO Ron Dennis and drivers Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen insist the team have a good basic car and can be competitive later in the season.
Mercedes, though, look to have increased their advantage and it seems there’ll be more of the same as the two-horse race for the title gets underway.
Has Lewis already got the psychological edge over Nico?
Is Mercedes’ dominance good or bad for the sport?
What are McLaren Honda’s realistic chances of scoring points?
Get involved and leave your thoughts below!