Lewis Hamilton took an imperious pole position in Melbourne, aggressively setting the tone for the 2018 Formula 1 season.
The holder of a record 73 pole positions, posted a record qualifying time of 1.21.604, the fastest ever at the Albert Park circuit and his 7th here. Hamilton soared ahead of the two Ferrari, which in turn were separated by only 1/100th of a second, with Kimi Raikkonen beating Sebastian Vettel into third place.
Daniel Ricciardo’s three-place penalty has allowed the Haas F1 Team to start from 5th with Kevin Magnussen and 6th place with Romain Grosjean, the team’s best ever qualifying and, they will surely hope, the start of a strong season’s showing for the American team.
Saturday’s mixed grid, aided by Valtteri Bottas’ accident, will be welcome by fans who are hoping for a hard-fought season amongst the top teams.
Their hope is borne out by data analysis from Friday’s Free Practice sessions. The long-run pace of the top three teams was neatly contained within 0.2 of a second per lap, close enough to indicate Mercedes should not have it all their own way in Sunday’s race. The meteo was different on Friday, but the closeness of performance was confirmed in today’s qualification fast runs.
Hamilton is a strong favourite to win, as data taken from the last ten years shows that pole sitters have subsequently won 45% of the races. And front row is definitely the place to be, as an overwhelming 73% top-two starters have gone on to win in Melbourne.
Pit stops will be key to success as the Australian pit lane averages 23 seconds for full entry and exit, one of the highest of the 21 racing venues. Teams will also have to be clever with their fuel strategy, as 2017 data shows that the fuel range between the thirstiest car and the most efficient one, was only three litres, while the likelihood of accidents is low as there were no red flags or safety cars, virtual or real.
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport, said:
“You would think that with the results we’ve had in these years, it would be the norm. But it doesn’t. It’s still just as intense and my heart is racing, I wish you could feel it right now. It’s great to see this crowd here. Thank you so much for all coming out. I’m so grateful to the Aussies having us here every year and mostly the generally good weather but a beautiful city. And a lot of British flags here, so I’m really grateful for it. But I’m so happy with that lap; it was such a nice lap. And, you know, I’m always striving for perfection and that was as close as I could get.”