It may have taken two days, but the end result for qualifying at the 2013 Australian Grand Prix sees triple world champion Sebastian Vettel (1:27.407) on pole position. It’s Vettel’s 37th career pole, third on the all-time list behind Ayrton Senna (65) and Michael Schumacher (68).
Following two wet sessions for Q1 on Saturday and Q2 this morning, the best times in Q3 were set on supersoft slick tyres. Indeed a few teams, notably McLaren, gambled on slicks in Q2 but it proved to be the wrong decision. All drivers started Q3 on intermediates but as the times tumbled slicks were required to stay in the chase for pole.
Aussie fans will be pleased to see Mark Webber (1:27.827) starting from P2, alongside his Red Bull teammate. It’s the second front row lockout for Red Bull in Melbourne after the team first achieved the result in 2010.
Lewis Hamilton’s (1:28.087) life at Mercedes has started well, qualifying in third ahead of his teammate Nico Rosberg (1:28.523) who qualified sixth. Although, when conditions were wet Rosberg was clearly the man to beat, fastest in both Q1 and Q2.
Ferrari will be happy that Felipe Massa (1:28.490) seems to be in the groove again, he narrowly edged out teammate Fernando Alonso (1:28.493). Although, Massa was very lucky to get away with a spectacular spin in yesterday’s Q1, which somehow only managed to damage his front wing.
Behind the two Ferraris is Rosberg and the the two Lotus drivers, will fill the fourth row of the grid, with Kimi Raikkonen (1:28.738) starting from P7 and Romain Grosjean (1:29.013) from P8.
Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo (1:39.042) was underwhelmed by qualifying in P14 and not just because his Toro Rosso teammate Jean-Eric Vergne (1:38.778) is one position ahead of him. Speaking after quali Ricciardo revealed he is not happy with the setup of his STR8, saying there’s still much to learn for the year ahead.
Webber on the other hand was happy to put himself on the front row and hopes there will be a dry line for him to exploit from P2 after working on his starts during the off-season.
Due to yesterday’s wet weather forcing qualifying into a second day there will be no official post-qualifying FIA interviews. A full list of grid positions can be seen after the break.
[Pic: Red Bull/Getty Images]
UPDATE: The post-quali press conference wasn’t televised this morning, but the top three were interviewed and the transcript can be read below.
2013 Australian Grand Prix qualifying
- Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing – 1:27.407
- Mark Webber Red Bull Racing – 1:27.827
- Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG – 1:28.087
- Felipe Massa Ferrari – 1:28.490
- Fernando Alonso Ferrari – 1:28.493
- Nico Rosberg Mercedes AMG – 1:28.523
- Kimi Räikkönen Lotus – 1:28.738
- Romain Grosjean Lotus – 1:29.013
- Paul di Resta Force India – 1:29.305
- Jenson Button McLaren – 1:30.357
- Nico Hulkenberg Sauber – 1:38.067
- Adrian Sutil Force India – 1:38.134
- Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso – 1:38.778
- Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso – 1:39.042
- Sergio Perez McLaren – 1:39.900
- Valtteri Bottas Williams – 1:40.290
- Pastor Maldonado Williams – 1:47.614
- Esteban Gutierrez Sauber – 1:47.776
- Jules Bianchi Marussia – 1:48.147
- Max Chilton Marussia – 1:48.909
- Giedo van der Garde Caterham – 1:49.519
- Charles Pic Caterham – 1:50.626
Q1 107% Time 1:50.616
2013 Australian Grand Prix – Saturday Press Conference
1 – Sebastian VETTEL (Red Bull Racing)
2 – Mark WEBBER (Red Bull Racing)
3 – Lewis HAMILTON (Mercedes)
Sebastian, surely that was the best way possible to start the season?
Sebastian VETTEL: Yes, obviously it’s been a very good weekend so far for us, I have to say. Obviously, we came out of winter testing and didn’t know what to expect, but since Friday we got into the groove, I had a good feeling with the car, so I think we confirmed that in all conditions. Obviously a bit tricky yesterday and I think it was the right decision to call off qualifying and continue today but the main task is coming this afternoon.
And the team seemed to run it absolutely right. I think you probably had another lap to go if necessary right at the end?
SV: Yeah, but then obviously with these conditions there is the fact of always getting quicker just because the circuit dries up and you get more confidence, you know, the exits of the corner when you turn in. You can adjust the amount of risk you take but obviously there is always the tyres. The supersoft used by the majority of people, or everyone, is very good for one lap but you can definitely feel the step down in grip, so we’ll see what happens this afternoon. But for now a perfect result for us as a team. Mark in second, so I think it’s a great way to start the race but it will be a long race. Weather-wise I’m not sure what is going to happen, probably a little bit better than it was so far but we’ll see.
And surprisingly, perhaps, this is fairly similar to Barcelona testing in terms of temperatures.
SV: Yeah, so that’s what we are going to find out – whether it’s similar in terms of tyre wear this afternoon. Could be quite funny. I think it will be all about watching after the tyres. We’ve had a lot of practice in winter testing, the temperatures were very different; the circuit was very different. I think that’s the main difference, even though now it seems a bit cooler than the last couple of days.
Mark, you’re equal best ever grid position here. What are your hopes for this afternoon?
Mark WEBBER: Yeah, first of all I think it was a great job from the team. Very, very tricky in those conditions and also very easy to make errors on any side – driver, procedurally, planning, all sorts of stuff. We survived the small bullets yesterday and then also got through today’s session with not far off the maximum we could get. In the end it was very chaotic, very difficult to get all the planning right. I think all the drivers are probably quite frustrated that they didn’t put slick a little bit earlier because it was just the third sector that was a little bit wet and you’re not quite sure h0ow the slick will take – the intermediate was well out of bed, you’re not sure how the slick will go. In the end it was a good quali and as you say this afternoon we’re now in a position to have a good afternoon. Five per cent of the job’s done. We know that the big stuff’s this afternoon, looking forward to the race. Unusually we finish quali and talk to you guys and we’ve got to get ready for the race now. Certainly we’re ready for it. I’m ready. The team’s ready, so looking forward to it.
Q: What can you do about that chap [Sebastian] beside you?
MW: Well, yeah, there’s got to be some calls made today on tyres and strategy and see how the balance of the cars are, and yeah, so it’s going to be a tight grand prix, potentially. But also if you’re not in the window with the tyres or having the balance where you need to be… it’s so early in the Championship for all of us on these tyres and working out how we’re going to execute a long grand prix, so things can blow open as well. I think we’ve done as much as we can in Europe. As you say, temperatures are very similar to Barcelona today – if not the same. 13 [°C] track or something like that. Quite uncanny really – but that’s just the way it is. Seb’s always a strong competitor and he’s one of many out there that can go OK – but I’m confident I can have a good race.
Lewis, looking back at yesterday afternoon, I guess it’s quite a relief to be sitting there.
Lewis HAMILTON: Definitely, definitely, the guys did a fantastic job to get us out on time. It was very tricky out there but I’m very happy I got the job done. Obviously these guys [Sebastian and Mark] were incredibly quick but I’m really happy with the job we’ve done. And to be this far up coming into this season – I said yesterday that it was a blessing they moved it to today and it really was.
Presumably you were able to put on a new rear-wing because it was damaged – even though the cars were in parc ferme?
LH: Well, it was during the session, so yeah.
Third-fastest with a new team as well, that must be a great satisfaction.
LH: It is: it’s incredible. What an incredible job the team have done. To come from last year where they were struggling quite a lot to now. I really feel we have a car that we can really work on. It’s a great foundation to build upon throughout the year – so keep up the good work guys.
Questions from the floor
Q: (Oleg Karpov – Klaxon) Lewis, Jenson is more than two seconds behind. What are your thoughts about that? Is it a little confirmation for you that you did the right choice in the winter?
LH: I don’t look at it like that. I think our position and how the car’s behaving and how I feel in the team just confirms to me that I feel like a made a good choice. I never looked back once I made the choice and I didn’t have any regrets about it. I don’t know what difficulties they’re having but they had a fantastic car last year so I have no doubts that they’ll pick it up. Sometimes in the team, when I was there, we had rough starts but the team are very strong in putting it back together.
Q: (Jacob Polychronis – F1plus.com) Mark, I think out of the three drivers you look the most pleased and happy. However, it obviously wasn’t ideal with the preparations for qualifying, considering it’s on Sunday morning. I wonder if you would explain how you readjust and how much of an inconvenience it is really?
MW: We’ve been in this situation a few times, not many, but I think we had Suzuka in ’04, Suzuka again in 2010, so we’ve had a few events where we’ve had the horrible situation for everybody – fans, you guys, us, teams – to have that big delay, tomorrow trying to get that gap in the weather. Yesterday, they also had to manage the problems with the lights so all in all, you’ve just got to take the moments as they are and deal with what’s thrown at you at that period in terms of yesterday afternoon and then last night you re-group, let’s say, very very quickly But then knowing you’ve got a big day today and coming here a lot earlier than normal for a race weekend, things have to be shuffled around a lot in terms of procedure in the garage, also driver preparation. It’s really just like a Friday really, but it counts, so a short run in the morning then long runs in the afternoon but it really really counts. It’s the race, you’ve got to put everything together for. I think the experience helps as well. I think we saw yesterday with the young guys getting their head round that sort of stuff is quite overwhelming to start with probably on a very tricky circuit as well; it caught out a lot of us out so in the end experience also counts in those conditions and this scenario.
Q: (Livio Oricchio – O Estado de Sao Paulo) We saw in Barcelona, in similar conditions, after some laps there was a lot of graining in the tyres. What do you realistically expect from the beginning of this race, first pit stop on the fifth or sixth lap and then plus ten or 12 laps another pit stop? What can you realistically expect?
SV: I think it’s unknown at this stage. What we can say is that it’s surprisingly cool here today, probably cooler than we all expected but also we have to see that it’s a different circuit so we have seen that all of us were struggling a lot to make the tyres last more than a lap or two in Barcelona but this is not Barcelona. It’s much easier on the tyres but then again, it’s still pretty tricky to make our way round so we will see. We saw a little bit on Friday when the temperatures were very different and I think tyres weren’t holding up too badly but it could be all different this afternoon. I don’t know what’s realistic; it could be a couple of laps or it could be a couple of laps more. I think we need to go with what we have.
MW: I think that it’s a product which is very very challenging for us, no question about it. There are periods where the tyre isn’t strong enough to handle the lap times a Formula One car can do, the same as in Barcelona we saw the tyres really really under incredible load, and as Seb touched on, it struggles to finish four laps in Barcelona so it’s really us understanding how we can get the most out of short runs and then long runs. It’s no surprise that some of the races towards the end of last year – Korea for example – that they were quite conservative on strategy and these ones are probably not going to be like that today, so we will learn more today and we will then pass the information on to Pirelli and maybe they can learn a bit more as well.
Q: (Ian Parkes – PA) Sorry Seb, we didn’t have any sound in the media centre at the start of your questions. We’ve got the sound back now, so would you just give us the run-through of your pole, it looked quite easy?
SV: Well then you should do it next time and I will take the day off. Definitely not easy in these conditions. I had a surprising feeling when I went out for Q3 because the circuit already looked very dry but obviously once we committed to the time schedule, there was no way back and I had two good runs, one on the inters and one on the dries, and on the dries I think I got into the groove and the car felt pretty much in balance similar to what I had on Friday, so I was happy and ready to push on the lap. Obviously it’s always tricky to find the limit in these conditions, especially around the fast bit: turns 11 and 12 were still a bit wet so there was one dry line but overall pretty happy with the lap and as soon as I got confirmation that it was enough I pulled in to save the tyres.