F1 Raceweek: Hamilton out to make pole count, Ricciardo ready to fight
Lewis Hamilton rewrote the record books by claiming pole position for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.
In qualifying fastest for the seventh time in this race, the Mercedes driver surpassed the previous record held by the legendary Ayrton Senna.
Hamilton will be well aware, however, that the Australian Grand Prix - more so than most races - is not won on a Saturday.
Only one of the last six winners has done so from pole, Hamilton achieving that feat in 2015 before squandering his place at the front of the grid to miss out to Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel respectively over the subsequent two years.
Vettel will start from third at Albert Park on Sunday after being outqualified by Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen.
EARLY FLASHPOINT FOR HAMILTON-VETTEL RIVALRY?
Hamilton predicted before the season started that his rivalry with Vettel could be worse in 2018, and there was one moment that certainly suggested that could be the case on Saturday.
Amid debate over whether Hamilton's late burst of qualifying pace came courtesy of Mercedes' so-called "party mode" at a news conference, the Briton told Vettel he had been waiting to "wipe the smile off your face".
Although Hamilton later stressed it had been a joke, Vettel's assertion that "what goes around comes around" suggested this title battle was already close to boiling point before lights out at the opening race.
Vettel's first priority, however, will be to usurp Raikkonen, who has been the quicker of the two Ferrari drivers this week.
Kimi is not amused...#F1 #AusGP pic.twitter.com/zBoOD8Lfin
— Formula 1 (@F1) March 24, 2018
BOTTAS WITH POINT TO PROVE
This is a big season for Valtteri Bottas. Out of contract and with a host of other big-name drivers set to come onto the market, the Finn needs to prove his worth to keep his Mercedes seat for 2019.
With that in mind, ploughing his car into a wall in qualifying was far from the ideal start.
Bottas left the track at Turn 2 early in Q3, bringing out the red flags and causing substantial damage to his car.
That incident - and an expected five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change - means Bottas will start from 15th and his progress through the field will be worth monitoring on Sunday as he tries to restore some pride.
Disappointing qualifying by own fault, but can’t wait to jump in the car tomorrow to see what kind of opportunities the race will bring to us. Starting 15th. Keeping positive and will give all I have #F1 #VB77 #AusGP @MercedesAMGF1 pic.twitter.com/8pSa5MXMRN
— Valtteri Bottas (@ValtteriBottas) March 24, 2018
RICCIARDO READY FOR REVENGE
Another man who will have to work his way to the front if he is to become the first Australian winner of this race is Daniel Ricciardo.
After qualifying fifth fastest, Ricciardo will start from eighth thanks to a grid penalty for failing to slow down enough under the red flag in free practice on Friday.
The Red Bull driver has made his thoughts on that sanction known - describing it as a "s***house" decision.
But the Aussie is ready to fight back, warning: "I feel sorry for the guys in front of me tomorrow as they're the ones I'm going to have to take my anger out on."
Tomorrow I will wake and race day it will be. That makes me happy.
— Daniel Ricciardo (@danielricciardo) March 24, 2018
2017: Sebastian Vettel
2016: Nico Rosberg
2015: Lewis Hamilton
Following earlier reports that the weekend could be impacted by rain, any further downpours now look set to hold off until after Sunday's race.