Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix 2014: Results, Times for Practice and Qualifying
The 2014 Formula One season kicks off this weekend at Albert Park, Melbourne.
Reliability issues dominated preseason testing and are likely to prove key in Australia. Defending world champions Red Bull are struggling. In fact, for the first time since 2009, they will not enter the year as favourites.
That honour has passed to Mercedes, but right now we're all guessing—no one really knows what is going to happen.
Friday's two practice sessions saw the cars hit the track for the start of the season proper, and Saturday featured third practice and qualifying.
The article was updated throughout the weekend with a report of each session. Read on for full qualifying and practice reports.
Bleacher Report Race Weekend Essentials
2014 Season Preview and Predictions by the Bleacher Report F1 writers.
Full Australian Grand Prix Preview by Neil James.
Albert Park Facts and History by Matthew Walthert.
Friday's Paddock News from Melbourne by Oliver Harden.
Qualifying: Lewis Hamilton Snatches Pole from Daniel Ricciardo
Lewis Hamilton snatched pole in the dying seconds to deny Daniel Ricciardo a dream start to his Red Bull career.
The rain had returned for the start of the session and everyone except Fernando Alonso started on full wets.
The Mercedes cars set the early pace, but they were just biding their time. The track began to dry a little and everyone returned to the pits for a new set of tyres.
As the session drew towards its climax, the track was right on the line between inters and wets, and we saw a split in strategies.
Some, including Daniel Ricciardo and Felipe Massa, went with intermediates; the Mercedes cars and Fernando Alonso were among those on full wets.
Nico Rosberg looked like he'd done enough, but crucially he crossed the line to end his lap after the chequered flag had fallen. He could only watch from that point on.
Daniel Ricciardo was the first of the men to get an extra flying lap, and he sent the home crowd into raptures as he beat Rosberg's time by a mere half a tenth of a second to claim provisional pole.
But behind him on the track, Lewis Hamilton was flying. He put in a blistering display in the first and third sectors to take his 32nd career pole by three tenths and push Rosberg back onto the second row.
The German will start alongside Kevin Magnussen. Many parallels have been drawn between the young Dane and Hamilton, the last rookie to start his career at McLaren—and he added another today. Hamilton also started fourth in his first race.
The other Q3 rookie, Daniil Kvyat, achieved a respectable eighth place after a late spin.
With several cars out of position and everyone in possession of plenty of new tyres, we're set for a thrilling race tomorrow. There's even a chance of more rain.
The 2014 season is already living up to its hype.
Full qualifying times as shown on Formula1.com:
Bottas and Gutierrez will each take a five-place grid penalty for changing their gearboxes. Maldonado will be permitted to start despite not setting a time.
Q2: Sebastian Vettel out as Daniel Ricciardo Shines
The rain eased but the track was still wet enough for intermediate tyres, and that's what everyone (except the two Toro Rossos, briefly) used.
With the track slowly drying out, times continued to tumble as the session wore on. It all came down to the last few minutes, when the track was at its driest—and we saw some big-name casualties.
Kimi Raikkonen dropped the car on the exit of Turn 3 in the final minute and hit the wall. The resulting yellow flags slowed everyone still to pass that sector, including Sebastian Vettel.
The four-time world champion could manage no better than 13th. Teammate Daniel Ricciardo was second.
Mercedes don't have the same advantage in the wet as they do in the dry, but both drivers comfortably made it through.
Also through to Q3 were Kevin Magnussen and Daniil Kvyat—both making their F1 debut this weekend.
11. Jenson Button (McLaren)
12. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari)
13. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull)
14. Adrian Sutil (Sauber)
15. Kamui Kobayashi (Caterham)
16. Sergio Perez (Force India)
Q1: Kamui Kobayashi Makes It in the Caterham
Q1 has been cut to 18 minutes this season to allow an extra two minutes of Q3.
The actual session was over after just 12 minutes. That was when the expected rain arrived and all the drivers returned to the pits.
The usual suspects made it through without any drama, so the big story was Kamui Kobayashi. He made it through to Q2 in the Caterham thanks to Esteban Gutierrez's poor lap.
Lotus locked out the back row.
17. Max Chilton (Marussia)
18. Jules Bianchi (Marussia)
19. Esteban Gutierrez (Sauber)
20. Marcus Ericsson (Caterham)
21. Romain Grosjean (Lotus)
22. Pastor Maldonado (Lotus)
FP3: Nico Rosberg on Top as Romain Grosjean Loses His Cool
Mercedes again led the way in the third and final practice session. Nico Rosberg set the pace with a lap of 1 minute, 29.385.
Lewis Hamilton was going even quicker on his soft tyre run, but made an error and abandoned the lap. But overall, both drivers look extremely strong, and the team finished up early having done all they wanted to do.
Valtteri Bottas also finished early, but not by choice. The Williams man took no meaningful part in the session after a gearbox failure. The box will be changed, so he faces a five-place grid penalty after qualifying.
Romain Grosjean too had a bad day, despite putting in a decent number of laps. The Frenchman seems to be growing increasingly irate with his problematic Lotus.
Early in the session he angrily called the situation "unbelievable" (on team radio) and later on roared "nothing is solved!" when his race engineer requested he change torque map to charge his battery.
And teammate Pastor Maldonado stopped on the track in the session's closing minutes. With only two hours to fix the car, the team face a battle to get him into qualifying.
But it was good news at Caterham. Marcus Ericsson was out early as the team finally got some laps on the board. Kamui Kobayashi's lap of 1:34.413 doesn't look much, but it ends any worries Caterham may have had about the 107-percent rule.
In the fight behind Mercedes, it still looks close between Williams, McLaren, Ferrari, Red Bull and Force India.
Many drivers made errors into Turn 9, the chicane at the back of the circuit, where a strong tailwind played havoc with braking points. Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button were among those caught out.
And mistakes were common elsewhere too. The drivers are by no means entirely used to their new cars.
So we go into qualifying with a little more idea of who is where, but nothing is crystal clear.
That includes the sky. Rain is possible, and it might just ruin Mercedes' party.
Full session times as shown on Formula1.com:
|5||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:30.970||1.595|
|6||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:30.978||1.603|
|9||Sergio Perez||Force India-Mercedes||1:31.665||2.290|
|12||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:32.255||2.880|
FP2: Mercedes Move to the Front
Mercedes stepped it up a gear in the second practice to end the session on top of the timesheets.
Lewis Hamilton's time of one minute and 29.625 was one-and-a-half tenths quicker than the best time set by team-mate Nico Rosberg.
Fernando Alonso's Ferrari was next best, down by half a second.
However, the main story of the session is that Red Bull looked far better than most were expecting. Both drivers put in quick times, and on long runs did lap times reasonably close to those of Mercedes.
Sister team Toro Rosso are struggling with a braking issue. Both drivers visited gravel traps as they had difficulties slowing down for the slow corners.
The Italian team's rookie, Daniil Kvyat, earned the ire of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas when he blocked both. The young Russian seemed to be paying attention to anything but his mirrors.
Elsewhere, Williams and McLaren had quiet, productive sessions, while Lotus got in their first running of the weekend.
All is not well, though—the E22 looks terrible. On the in-car camera, the engine sounded like it was being run with little or no energy recovery.
The session ended with yellow flags out as Nico Hulkenberg and Romain Grosjean both got beached in the gravel after spins. Team-mate Pastor Maldonado and fellow Renault team Caterham missed the session entirely.
Those were the only times a driver stopped on the track, though. Were we imagining all those reliability issues?
Full session times as shown on Formula1.com:
|4||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:30.381||0.756|
|6||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:30.538||0.913|
|10||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:31.054||1.429|
|13||Sergio Perez||Force India-Mercedes||1:31.283||1.658|
FP1: Fernando Alonso Sets the Early Pace
Fernando Alonso set the pace in the opening free practice session of the most eagerly anticipated race of modern times.
However, this wasn't a session for speed.
None of the teams put any real focus on setting quick times, with most choosing to concentrate on just getting in some laps and doing some early race setup work.
Most of them managed it. The expected reliability issues didn't appear to bother most of the field. In fact, 17 of the 22 drivers set a lap time.
Alonso was the first car out on the track, followed closely by Adrian Sutil and Kevin Magnussen.
Title favourite Lewis Hamilton tried to join them, but his Mercedes stopped out on the track in the opening five minutes. A rogue sensor decided to shut the engine down for no reason, and with the car stranded, he got no further running.
Not the best, or most reassuring, of starts.
Pastor Maldonado in the Lotus was another who had a session to forget. Smoke was visible coming from the dashboard as he headed down the back straight on his out lap, but he managed to roll the stricken car back to the pit lane.
Red Bull had a fairly encouraging session, with both drivers setting decent times.
The team also debuted a brilliant innovation in camera packaging, hiding the usual pod-mounted nose camera in the nose itself. Only a tiny hole gives away its presence, and their rivals will probably have copies under development already.
McLaren, Force India and Williams will also be happy with their progress.
But the expected advantage for Mercedes certainly wasn't in evidence. Maybe it'll show up in FP2.
Full session times as shown on Formula1.com:
|5||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:32.599||0.759||26|
|7||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:32.793||0.953||10|
|11||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:33.533||1.693||23|
|12||Sergio Perez||Force India-Mercedes||1:33.855||2.015||24|
|18||Marcus Ericsson||Caterham-Renault||No time||1|
|19||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||No time||1|
|20||Kamui Kobayashi||Caterham-Renault||No time||1|
|21||Pastor Maldonado||Lotus-Renault||No time||2|
|22||Romain Grosjean||Lotus-Renault||No time||0|