Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas took the fight to Lewis Hamilton but the former fought back to score pole in 2019 F1 Australian GP at Albert Park as Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was third.
The teams took it cautiously to start the first qualifying session of 2019 season at Albert Park in Melbourne but the end was good chaos as drivers started to improve one after the another to cause surprise already in the first part.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc went quickest from Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas with Leclerc’s teammate Sebastian Vettel ending up 11th having used the medium compound for his solo quick run.
As alluded before, the quicker times towards the end by almost the whole field caught out several drivers with a big scalp of Red Bull Racing’s Pierre Gasly (1m23.020s), who ended up only 17th after the team did not send him out for a second run.
Ahead of him was Racing Point’s Lance Stroll (1m23.017s) with McLaren’s Carlos Sainz (1m23.084s) in 18th from the two Williams drivers, George Russell (1m24.360s) and Robert Kubica (1m26.067s) – the Pole having a puncture to not able to go quicker.
Sainz couldn’t get into Q2 like his rookie teammate Lando Norris but the Spaniard was caught out by Kubica’s tyre blowout. The close placed pack saw only 0.653s separating the drivers from fourth down to 18th.
The second part saw no tyre gamble from the drivers with all of the Top 10 drivers to start on the soft compound. Hamilton, though, opted for a second quick lap to top the session from Bottas and Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen.
In the lower half though, it ended up with both Renault drivers being knocked out in Q2 as Nico Hulkenberg (1m22.562s) led Daniel Ricciardo (1m22.570s) in 11th and 12th. The German was bumped out at the last minute by Racing Point’s Sergio Perez.
The Toro Rosso battle had Alexander Albon (1m22.636s) in 13th with Daniil Kvyat (1m22.774s) 15th while Alfa Romeo Racing’s Antonio Giovinazzi (1m22.714s) was sandwiched between them. Norris was star again to make it into Q3.
The qualifying fight was wide open with Bottas taking provisional pole after a storming 1m20.598s to be ahead of Hamilton (1m21.055s) with Vettel and Leclerc slotting in third and fourth respectively in the pole battle.
But Hamilton fought back on his second run to take his sixth consecutive Australian GP pole to start the 2019 F1 season with a 1m20.486s as Bottas couldn’t improve on his second attempt but Mercedes secured a front-row lockout.
The Ferrari drivers couldn’t secure the second row with Vettel (1m21.190s) in third as Verstappen’s (1m21.320s) late lap got him in fourth, pushing Leclerc (1m21.442s) to fifth ahead of Haas’ Romain Grosjean (1m21.826s) and Kevin Magnussen (1m22.099s).
The Norris-show (1m22.304s) continued on in Q3 with the British driver eventually ending up eighth ahead of Alfa Romeo Racing’s Kimi Raikkonen (1m22.314s) with Perez (1m22.781s) rounding out the Top 10.