Melbourne, 15 March 2014
Fernando Alonso: “I think fifth is a good result in such a difficult qualifying session, especially as it’s the first time we’ve run in the wet with the new car and because from this position, a podium finish is possible, which is worth a lot of points. We were lucky in Q1, when the rain came just after I’d done my quick lap and in Q2 we were also able to run when the track was at its best. I knew that the results of free practice did not reflect the reality of the situation and that the hierarchy would only become clear today, with Mercedes a step ahead of the rest. It would also give a clearer picture than the one we had from testing, when we couldn’t be sure what the other teams were testing. Now we have seen in which areas we need to improve and the aim is to do so in the next few races. I don’t think the consumption factor will change things too much, because when saving fuel, all the cars lose half a second. On top of that, the weather will come into play tomorrow as the forecast isn’t clear. The priority is to finish the race and to do better than the others in the coming months. I am sure that with practice, we will learn how to get the most out of the car and simplify all the procedures.”
Kimi Raikkonen: “Qualifying wasn’t straightforward today, especially because of traffic. When I was on a quick lap, I had a car in front of me at every corner. That stopped me getting a clean lap and at the end of Q2, I spun off damaging the front wing. I don’t think I’d have gone quicker anyway, as I had already reduced my speed at this point, because I knew already I wouldn’t make it to Q3. It’s a shame, because compared to yesterday we have made some steps forward. In the wet we were quick and I had more feeling for the car. We know we have a lot of work to do in every area, especially on car set-up, but at the same time, we are sure we are going in the right direction. Tomorrow’s race will be tough, the weather forecast is unclear and on top of that, with the new rules, it’s hard to predict how things will go. But it’s only the first race of the year and we will do our best to get a good result.”
Pat Fry: “Qualifying in the wet in Melbourne is nothing new, but today, added to the wet track, the drivers also had to deal with all the new technologies introduced in the regulations. We are not satisfied with the final result, even if the F14 T is still at the development stage and I believe the team is working in the right direction to make up ground to our rivals, especially Mercedes, who today confirmed the form they’d shown in winter testing. Our grid positions would suggest an uphill battle in the race, especially for Kimi and we can expect unknown factors linked to reliability and fuel consumption to count for a lot. As for the former factor, we are paying close attention to every little detail.
At this point, we cannot allow ourselves to be distracted, because with such complicated systems, the unpredictable could come into play. In terms of race pace, we’ve seen some teams are faster than us, but I think the first race of the year could throw up some surprises, hopefully in our favour.”
Australian GP – Rain clouds qualifying result
Melbourne, 15 March – This late afternoon qualifying session was supposed to produce the first real picture of the current hierarchy among the eleven teams. With the aim of doing a single very fast lap – one aspect of qualifying that has remained the same for this year – the result ought to have reflected the pecking order down pit lane. However, the threat of rain turned to reality towards the end of Q1 and clouded the issue.
Fernando Alonso was reasonably happy with fifth place, while Kimi Raikkonen made a mistake in the treacherous conditions right at the end of Q2, clipping the wall with the front of his F14 T which meant he was a spectator for rest of the afternoon, although he probably would not have made the cut to the top ten shoot-out anyway. He will have a tough race tomorrow, trying to make his way up the order from twelfth place.
The Red Bull garage had a premature celebration when it looked as though local hero Daniel Ricciardo would take pole in his first race for the team, but he was pipped at the very last by Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes, whose team-mate Nico Rosberg set the third fastest time, confirming the Mercedes’ status as top car in winter testing. The best rookie was Kevin Magnussen, fourth for McLaren, while Fernando will be lining up his F14 T on the third row of the grid alongside the Toro Rosso of Jean-Eric Vergne who was sixth.
Kimi will start surrounded by fellow world champions, as Jenson Button was eleventh for McLaren, with reigning champion Sebastian Vettel only thirteenth in the Red Bull.
Australian GP – Ferrari on third and sixth rows
Melbourne, 15 March – Qualifying was made particularly tricky because of rain and it ended in less than brilliant circumstances for Scuderia Ferrari. Fernado Alonso was fifth fastest, leaving the impression he could have done better with a little bit of luck, while Kimi Raikkonen is twelfth on the sixth row, having hit the wall right at the end of Q2 in Albert Park.
Everyone rushed out on track in Q1 as the rain was clearly on its way, arriving four minutes from the end: Fernando was fourth fastest with a 1.31.388 on the Soft tyres, while Raikkonen was ninth in 1.32.439 on the Mediums.
In a wet Q2, the Intermediate tyres were called into service, and the Spaniard was third in 1.42.805, six tenths off Rosberg’s Mercedes. But Raikkonen was in the wall and out of proceedings, a fate he shared with two other champions, Button and Vettel.
Alonso was fifth fastest in Q3, while Hamilton took pole ahead of Ricciardo, Rosberg and Magnussen.
Australian GP – Fernando and Kimi ready for battle
Melbourne, 15 March – Third and seventh times for Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen respectively in the final free practice for the Australian Grand Prix. The Spaniard took his F14 T round in 1.30.876, a second and a half off the fastest time, which was set by Nico Rosberg in the Mercedes. The German was the dominant force, lapping 1.3 seconds quicker than second placed Jenson Button in the McLaren. Kimi Raikkonen’s best lap was a 1.31.156 and the Finn completed 12 laps, one more than his team-mate.
Both drivers concentrated on set-up work aimed at qualifying, in a session which was affected by a strong wind blowing across Albert Park. Heading from the nearby ocean, it brought in leaves and debris, which made life complicated in the braking areas, which explains several harmless off-track excursions, including one for Kimi.