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Qualifying highlights - Australia 2016 - Confounding new format fails to mix up the order

Published by Christine

Putting in the laps on a dry Saturday
Credit: Sahara Force India

It was an overcast start to proceedings in Australia, with drivers and teams attempting to find their way through the new elimination-style qualifying format. With little information to go on, it was a confusing start, a befuddling middle, and an anti-climactic ending. However, it still sets up the grid for tomorrow's first race of the season, and that can only be a good thing.

A couple of drivers find themselves out of place, one of the new boys managed to get the better of his more experienced teammate, and you'll never guess who was on pole. Well, you probably will, but still, read on to find out more!

As it happened: Australia 2016 - Qualifying

Event Highlights

  • Hamilton takes pole position on all Mercedes front row
  • Ferrari secure the second row with Vettel ahead of Kimi Räikkönen
  • New qualifying format fails to deliver with four minutes of empty track at the end of Q3
  • Bottas dropped out in Q2, whilst Kvyat was out in first session qualifying 18th
  • McLaren improved on last year's performance with 12th and 13th
  • New team Haas were at the back of the field along with Manor
  • 05:52

    Morning everyone! The first F1 qualifying of the year is just about to get underway - excited!

  • 05:52

    Haven't given myself much leeway for introduction or build up here (mmm, sleep) so let's just stick with the important facts.

  • 05:53

    We're switching to elimination style qualifying this year, which is another unknown for the teams. Opinion varies on whether this will be absolute chaos, or just the same as any other qualifying ever, eg. Hamilton on pole.

  • 05:55

    Brand new drivers this year: Pascal Wehrlein and Rio Haryanto at Manor, as well as Jolyon Palmer in at Renault.

  • 05:56

    Free Practice Friday was a damp affair with drivers not so keen on heading out and risking damaging their car. That means teams have even less information than normal.

  • 05:57

    Weather icon

    Wind speed4.5mps
  • 05:58

    There's definitely a chance of rain this session, it looks breezy and overcast, plenty of hats and coats and wrapped up people watching on from the grandstands.

  • 05:59

    Third practice was dry, however, with Hamilton setting the fastest time to make it three for three. Haryanto and Grosjean had a coming together in the pitlane, for which the rookie Indonesian has been given a three place penalty.

  • 06:00

    Tyres available:

  • 06:01

    Green flagQualifying session 1 begins.

  • 06:01

    Lewis Hamilton heads the pack out with Nico Rosberg close behind. The two Haas cars were behind them in the queue, with Nico Hülkenberg following on.

  • 06:02

    Hamilton slowed up on the first lap out there, and is passed by Rosberg and Grosjean for track position.

  • 06:03

    There's seven minutes now for drivers to get warmed up and start setting their best times.

  • 06:03

    Rosberg is feeling the pressure early, he runs wide and bounces over the grass, kicking up some dust and dirtying up his tyres.

  • 06:04

    Everyone is out and about on track, and all appear to have brand new red supersoft tyres on.

  • 06:05

    As you might expect, Lewis Hamilton sets the benchmark time with a 1:26.635. Räikkönen is behind him, and then the two Toro Rossos.

  • 06:07

    So we used to have to study the bottom five or six so carefully, but the new style has narrowed the drop zone to start with. Two Manor drivers sit at the bottom of the field but returning racer Esteban Gutiérrez isn't too far ahead.

  • 06:07

    Team radioTeam radio from Nico Rosberg: "I think there was something wrong with those tyres."

  • 06:08

    The bottom three are all in the pitlane at the moment, as the seven minute deadline quickly draws near.

  • 06:08

    Seven minutes gone, ninety seconds countdown. Wehrlein firmly in the frame for a first elimination here.

  • 06:10

    Wehrlein out - he didn't get back out of the pit lane to make a defense.

  • 06:10

    Next in the frame is Haryanto, who is also in the pit lane and actually not even in the car. Tough start for Manor.

  • 06:11

    Esteban Gutiérrez for Haas is the next one to drop out, and Grosjean isn't looking too promising sitting above him either.

  • 06:12

    We're on board with Grosjean, but it seems like he's on a lap that started too late - not enough time to make any difference.

  • 06:13

    Kvyat is next in line, he's out of the car and walking down the pit lane to the weighbridge or some such place. Red Bull out in Q1!

  • 06:14

    Twenty seconds left for Kvyat, but he'll definitely be out. Felipe Nasr will have ninety seconds on board, but they're only just sending him out of the pit lane now - he's not going to have time to set a lap though.

  • 06:14

    It really does feel like teams haven't quite figured out what to do to attempt a defense on their first lap times.

  • 06:15

    Nasr didn't do a lap time there, he returned back to the pit lane as his timer counts down to zero.

  • 06:16

    Final spot for this session then, and it's Jolyon Palmer versus Marcus Ericsson. The Sauber on a lap right now to improve.

  • 06:17

    Chequered flagQualifying session 1 ends.

  • 06:17

    Bizarrely, Palmer is allowed to finish the lap he's on despite the counter hitting zero - which seems unfair on all the others who weren't allowed to go over their ninety seconds.

  • 06:18

    Palmer does manage to improve two places which drops Ericsson into the final knockout position. Ericsson was on a lap but gave it up and headed back to the pit lane.

  • 06:20
    Out in Q1
    16M EricssonSauber
    17F NasrSauber
    18D KvyatRed Bull
    19R GrosjeanHaas
    20E GutiérrezHaas
    21R HaryantoManor
    22P WehrleinManor
  • 06:20

    A good point made by Martin Brundle on the Sky commentary, it's early days of course but this new style qualifying does have you staring at the stopwatch more than looking at the drivers doing their beautiful thing on track.

  • 06:22

    TweetTweet from @RenaultSportF1: Woooohooooo! Ok we escaped the little red clock thing, that felt good. JP P14, he's through to #Q2

  • 06:25

    Green flagQualifying session 2 begins.

  • 06:26

    As before there was a bit of a queue at the end of the pit lane with a Mercedes heading up the train of cars.

  • 06:28

    Rosberg sets the first time, with Hamilton knocking a tenth off to beat his teammate to the top spot. Two Ferrari drivers slot in behind, Vettel ahead.

  • 06:29

    Sergio Pérez up to third for Force India, and Max Verstappen in fifth, the Toro Rosso looking quite handy at the moment.

  • 06:30

    The ninety second countdown is back and it's Kevin Magnussen who is first in line.

  • 06:31

    Palmer was on a hot lap there and solidifies his 14th place, with Magnussen following behind unable to improve. Magnussen the first drop-out in this session.

  • 06:31

    Palmer is next in line, whilst Button is in 13th, but is still in the garage looking like he won't be able to defend his time.

  • 06:32

    Palmer out, Button has those ninety seconds now but is still in the garage.

  • 06:34

    Sainz though, he's sitting 12th so next in the drop zone after Button. He's on a lap! On track, he crossed the line but I still don't think he's going to have time to do a full lap here.

  • 06:35

    Alonso is in the pits, a sitting duck for either this elimination or the next this one.

  • 06:35

    Sainz crosses the line and improves to fourth place, which means Alonso is out. He's quickly out the back of the garage, cap on, look of distaste on his face.

  • 06:36

    Hülkenberg is on a lap now, as the countdown of doom zeroes in on Force India.

  • 06:36

    He improves to P10, which puts the pressure on Bottas.

  • 06:36

    Bottas can't improve so he will be out now, 11th place for Williams.

  • 06:38

    Hülkenberg will drop out now, as he heads into the pit lane. And teammate Pérez is sitting ninth but in the pit lane so won't bother to defend his time.

  • 06:38

    This appears to have worked exactly as the FIA planned: Two minutes to go and NO CARS ON TRACK.

  • 06:39

    TweetTweet from @f1elvis: So as predicted, teams happy to settle for P9/10 & free tyre choice over running at end of Q2.

  • 06:40

    Chequered flagQualifying session 2 ends.

  • 06:41

    QuoteJenson Button: "We didn't have any tyres left. In the end it worked out, quickest cars to the front because they saved more tyres in Q1. P12 and P13 is slightly better than I expected coming here. Slightly better than we had last year."

  • 06:42
    Out in Q2
    9S PérezForce India
    10N HülkenbergForce India
    11V BottasWilliams
    12F AlonsoMcLaren
    13J ButtonMcLaren
    14J PalmerRenault
    15K MagnussenRenault
  • 06:43

    QuoteJolyon Palmer: "It was pretty chaotic, it was the first one with the new system. Very busy, quicker and quicker all the time to keep your head above water. We were quite happy to be in Q2, we didn't expect much more. Solid start for tomorrow.

    "I was updated every time I was in the pits where I was, I knew every lap I was on the bubble. For me, I haven't done a lot of lap time in the dry, I was trying to build up to it a bit, trying to keep my head above water. In the last lap, I knew I had to give it everything."

  • 06:46

    QuoteDany Kvyat: "It's very hard to say what the problem was, a bit wrong positioning, a bit wrong everything. It got us out in Q1. The race is tomorrow, but it doesn't feel great to start the season this way. We will have to really learn from today.

    "Obviously, when you are in the middle of traffic you have to give up a lot of time... the second lap, the tyres don't behave the way you want to behave. The second lap was clean but it wasn't enough."

  • 06:46

    TweetTweet from @joesaward: When is the next Strategy Group meeting?

  • 06:47

    Green flagQualifying session 3 begins.

  • 06:47

    Rosberg led two Ferraris out of the pit lane, with Hamilton following on behind.

  • 06:48

    Sounds like the bottom half of this top eight are going to set one lap time now and that's it, hope for the best, see where the chips fall.

  • 06:50

    Rosberg posts a 1:25.260 and is immediately beaten by Vettel and Räikkönen. No one can beat Mr Hamilton though, he's got half a second on Vettel.

  • 06:51

    The countdown of doom is on Massa now, he's on a lap.

  • 06:51

    Verstappen and Sainz are just ahead but also on a lap themselves.

  • 06:51

    Massa improves to fifth, putting Verstappen in the frame. Sainz improves to seventh to get out of danger for now.

  • 06:51

    Verstappen crosses the line to haul himself out of the danger zone, and that drops Ricciardo down. The Red Bull driver has no time left to get out of trouble.

  • 06:53

    The focus is back on Sainz now, but having slowed up after his lap earlier he's now got no time to defend either.

  • 06:53

    Verstappen in 5th and Massa in 6th are both in the pit lane, and it seems unlikely either will make another appearance.

  • 06:54

    Massa doesn't have time, and Verstappen is fifth anyway so he's unlikely to improve from there.

  • 06:56

    Team radioTeam radio to Sebastian Vettel: "We are firing up and hold but we are not planning to go out."

  • 06:56

    Only Rosberg is out on the track then, hoping to improve from fourth place, but everyone else is satisfied with their position.

  • 06:57

    Rosberg does improve to second place, and Hamilton has also headed out on track as well to defend his provisional pole with a 1:23.837.

  • 06:57

    There's four minutes on the clock then, and...

  • 06:57

    At least my dire predictions about the perils of traffic came to nothing. Can't have traffic with no cars on track!

  • 06:58

    TweetTweet from @chainbearf1: . @sidepodcast ooooh are you ready for the HEAD TO HEAD in the last 90 secs???

  • 06:58

    Rosberg back in the pits now, qualifying done.

  • 06:58

    StopwatchPole position for Lewis Hamilton with a time of 1:23.837.

  • 06:59
    Q3 results
    1L HamiltonMercedes
    2N RosbergMercedes
    3S VettelFerrari
    4K RäikkönenFerrari
    5M VerstappenToro Rosso
    6F MassaWilliams
    7C SainzToro Rosso
    8D RicciardoRed Bull
  • 07:00
    Gap Analysis
  • 07:01

    The chequered flag hasn't even dropped yet and Lewis Hamilton is back in the paddock, taking off his helmet, chatting with the Mercedes guys.

  • 07:01

    Chequered flagQualifying session 3 ends.

  • 07:02

    In better news, the matt Red Bull car looks really nice!

  • 07:03

    It wasn't perhaps the mixed up grid that we might have hoped for but we do have an out of place Williams and an out of place Red Bull.

  • 07:03

    Verstappen did a fantastic job to qualify essentially best of the rest behind Mercedes and Ferrari.

  • 07:05

    Hamilton is getting a ride to the media centre from the safety car, he's hanging out the window and waving to fans but the grandstands are mostly empty now - people weren't hanging around to watch four minutes of empty track!

  • 07:07

    TweetTweet from @NobleF1: Christian Horner tells BBC that #F1 should apologise to fans. He calls for immediate scrapping of elimination qualifying.

  • 07:08

    QuoteToto Wolff: "I'm the first one to say we shouldn't be speaking bad on the TV about things, but I think the new qualifying format is pretty rubbish."

  • 07:12

    QuotePress conference quotes - Lewis Hamilton: "First, I really have to take my hat off to this team. What they’ve done to raise the bar once more in our third year, to be fighting the rest. It inspires me, it motivates me. I enjoyed driving the car today, it got set up just right. They were some sexy laps, they felt good. They were just flowing and no real mistakes. That’s all you can hope for as a driver, to always improve, that’s what we did today. Really happy."

  • 07:12

    QuotePress conference quotes - Nico Rosberg: "The last lap was good, last lap in Q3, just Lewis did a better job. Mainly, it’s impressive to see how the team, in the third year running now, it’s early days so let’s be careful, but this weekend we seem to be the quickest out there by a good margin. It’s amazing to see that. The risk is always when you’re dominating that you start to become complacent. We were able to push through, which is awesome. Of course I’m not happy with second place but there’s still a lot of opportunities for tomorrow starting from second."

  • 07:13

    QuotePress conference quotes - Sebastian Vettel: "I said many times that we’ve done a step forward which we have. Especially tomorrow we should be quite a bit closer. We expected them to be strong in qualifying. I think we had a rougher start to find the rhythm, certainly I had. It was getting better throughout qualifying. I was happy with the lap at the end, so we called it there and saved a set of tyres for tomorrow. It’s going to be a long year, and we know this car has potential. Locking out the second row is a good start."

  • 07:15

    Damon Hill on the Sky coverage: "The reality was Lewis Hamilton could have waved his own chequered flag."

  • 07:16

    So, let's be diplomatic about this, the new qualifying wasn't a complete success, but there's room for improvement. If that improvement is scrapping it and going back to the format that was totally fine to start with.

  • 07:16

    Enough for now, let's see what happens tommorow, I'll be back then, will you join me?

All content in the series Australia 2016