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Australian GP Qualifying: Hamilton takes pole on the day of the unexpected

Hamilton and Button made it a McLaren one-two

The Formula One 2012 season roared into action at the picturesque Albert Park in Melbourne with former world champion Lewis Hamilton taking pole and teammate Jenson Button making it a McLaren one-two for Sunday’s race. Kimi Raikkonen failed to live up to all the hype of his return to F1, qualifying 18th while the Ferrari’s had a disastrous outing, Alonso and Massa qualifying 12th and 16th, respectively. The day however belonged to Lotus’ Romain Grosjean, the rookie Frenchman taking his car home in third position, ahead of Micheal Schumacher, who looked close to his scintillating best in his Mercedes.

The first qualifying session started off slowly with the frontrunners taking it slow, waiting for the track to get up to temperature. Marussia and HRT were way off the pace, both teams coming into the weekend with virtually no testing behind their cars. The McLarens and Red Bulls looked very stable and incredibly fast while the Mercedes, driven by F1 legend Michael Schumacher and fellow German Nico Rosberg, were finally showing signs of competing with the seasoned constructors. The biggest story of the opening session was elimination of Kimi Raikkonen, the Iceman failing to get his timings right and committing an error on his final lap.

What went wrong Kimi?

The struggling Ferrari was another big talking point, as the ugliest car on circuit looked equally ugly with Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa on-board. The Scuderia was sliding around with almost no grip in the front-end of the car. Felipe Massa just managed to scrape through to Q2 as the Caterhams and Marussias failed to make the cut. The HRTs were worse-off as Narain Kartikeyan and Pedro de la Rosa couldn’t even manage to bring their car home inside the 107% rule and it looks highly unlikely that the Spanish outfit will be allowed to race tomorrow.

The second session saw things go from bad to worse for Ferrari as a rookie mistake from Alonso ended his run in qualifying and the red flag was deployed as a result of his car being stranded in the gravel trap. Nico Rosberg beat Schumacher to the top spot as Romain Grosjean piled on Kimi’s misery, the Frenchmen guaranteeing a place for Lotus in the final session. Massa’s severe inability to get anything out of a slow Ferrari ended his team’s participation for the day as ten drivers made the cut for the final shoot-out in Q3.

Fernando Alonso of Spain and Ferrari retires early after spinning out into gravel trap during qualifying

The Renault and Mercedes engines accounted for nine of the 10 cars in Q3 with homeboy Daniel Ricciardo being Ferrari’s only flag-bearer. The final session got off to a blistering start with Lewis Hamilton setting the track ablaze with a fantastic lap timing of just under 1 min 25 seconds, the first of the day. The final few minutes saw all teams go all out to beat Hamilton’s splendid time, but the only one man who came close to the 2008 champion was his teammate Jenson Button, the 2009 champion completing a McLaren one-two for Sunday’s race.

Romain Grosjean will line-up alongside Michael Schumacher on the second row with the two Red Bulls starting on the third row of the grid. Rosberg, Pastor Maldonado, Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo rounded off the top 10 positions.

All in all, it was a day of the unexpected as the Ferraris looked in complete disarray, managing 12th and 16th positions. Kimi Raikkonen’s much-talked-about return to F1 didn’t quite go according to plan and the Iceman will have his work cut tomorrow, starting from the 9thth row. The resurgence of McLaren and Mercedes means that Red Bull will have to endure stiff competition all season and Grosjean’s performance reaffirmed Team Lotus’ status as this season’s dark horses.

Final Classification:

PosNoDriverTeamQ1Q2Q3
14Lewis HamiltonMcLaren-Mercedes1:26.8001:25.6261:24.922
23Jenson ButtonMcLaren-Mercedes1:26.8321:25.6631:25.074
310Romain GrosjeanLotus-Renault1:26.4981:25.8451:25.302
47Michael SchumacherMercedes1:26.5861:25.5711:25.336
52Mark WebberRed Bull Racing-Renault1:27.1171:26.2971:25.651
61Sebastian VettelRed Bull Racing-Renault1:26.7731:25.9821:25.668
78Nico RosbergMercedes1:26.7631:25.4691:25.686
818Pastor MaldonadoWilliams-Renault1:26.8031:26.2061:25.908
912Nico HulkenbergForce India-Mercedes1:27.4641:26.3141:26.451
1016Daniel RicciardoSTR-Ferrari1:27.0241:26.319No time
1117Jean-Eric VergneSTR-Ferrari1:26.4931:26.429
125Fernando AlonsoFerrari1:26.6881:26.494
1314Kamui KobayashiSauber-Ferrari1:26.1821:26.590
1419Bruno SennaWilliams-Renault1:27.0041:26.663
1511Paul di RestaForce India-Mercedes1:27.4691:27.086
166Felipe MassaFerrari1:27.6331:27.497
1715Sergio PerezSauber-Ferrari1:26.596
189Kimi RäikkönenLotus-Renault1:27.758
1920Heikki KovalainenCaterham-Renault1:28.679
2021Vitaly PetrovCaterham-Renault1:29.018
2124Timo GlockMarussia-Cosworth1:30.923
2225Charles PicMarussia-Cosworth1:31.670
DNQ22Pedro de la RosaHRT-Cosworth1:33.495
DNQ23Narain KarthikeyanHRT-Cosworth1:33.643
Q1 107% Time1:32.214
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