Hamilton storms to first F1 2019 pole

Hamilton storms to first F1 2019 pole

Lewis Hamilton will be on pole position for the first race of the F1 2019 season as Mercedes dominated qualifying at the Australian GP.

Hamilton pipped team-mate Valtteri Bottas by a tenth of a second on his final flying lap in Q3, posting a new track record and securing his sixth consecutive pole in Melbourne.

“I’m shaking, it was so close out there,” said the world champion.

“We really had no idea that we would have this performance. We thought we would be behind.”

Sebastian Vettel was third for Ferrari but 0.704s off the pace, and Max Verstappen will join him on the second row after edging out Charles Leclerc in the Red Bull.

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton insists his pole position for the season-starting Australian GP was a surprise.

“Mercedes smashed them to bits,” claimed Sky F1’s Martin Brundle. “Mercedes have absolutely thrashed Ferrari and Red Bull.”

Verstappen’s team-mate Pierre Gasly was the shock omission from the leading battle – the Frenchman was knocked out in Q1 after a strategy mishap from his team.

That allowed Romain Grosjean to qualify sixth as Haas led the chasing midfield pack, while British rookie Lando Norris shone on his qualifying debut to finish eighth for McLaren and ahead of Kimi Raikkonen.

Mercedes claimed Ferrari, during an impressive pre-season testing, held a half-a-second advantage at the front of the grid. But come Saturday at Albert Park, it all changed.

“I’m overwhelmed,” Mercedes chief Toto Wolff told Sky F1. “It really didn’t look like this at all [in Barcelona].”

Sky F1’s Paul di Resta added: “They’re absolutely shocked by how much quicker they are. Equally, Sebastian can’t believe the difference as well.

“It’s incredible what Mercedes do over the winter.”

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel reflects with Sky F1 on his hopes in the Australian GP after qualifying third.

Vettel, who after Friday practice dismissed the pre-season pessimism from the Silver Arrows camp as “bull****”, admitted after qualifying that Ferrari are “just not quick enough”.

But while Hamilton has six straight poles in Australia, he has only won two of those races. And the difference in qualifying between Mercedes and Ferrari was exactly the same here in qualifying last year, before Vettel won the race and dominated the start of the season.

“Mercedes are the clear favourites after the result today and the pace they have shown so far,” admitted Vettel.

“But we have a good car, and we are here to race.”

McLaren’s Lando Norris gave his reaction after qualifying eighth for McLaren.

Though Haas topped the midfield as Grosjean secured a place on the third row, Norris was the surprise package from Q3 as he made it into the final shootout on his first F1 Saturday.

“Our aim was just try and get into Q2,” the 19-year-old told Sky F1. “I’m very happy. I feel like I really maximised everything. I need to make sure I treasure this.”

He also out-qualified seasoned team-mate Sainz, who looked likely to match Norris’ time before Kubica’s puncture in Q1 slowed his final lap.

There was also an intra-team ‘victory’ for Hulkenberg as he edged out new Renault team-mate Ricciardo, though both drivers will have been disappointed to miss out on Q3 as Sergio Perez snuck in.

Red Bull avoided disaster somewhat thanks to Verstappen’s brilliance at the end of qualifying. The team made a critical mistake in Q1 by only giving Verstappen and Gasly one flying lap on the soft tyre and the Frenchman was eliminated.

It’s certainly not the start to his Red Bull career and while Gasly wasn’t faultless – making a small error on his one lap – he was only a tenth of a second behind Verstappen. But that was the difference between 17th and the top-10 in a closely-fought first portion.

Williams were well off the pace in qualifying, as they have been all weekend. George Russell was the lead FW42 in 19th, and did well to even finish 1.2s behind the closest rival.

“I don’t think we thought that we were going to be as far off the pace as we are,” said under-pressure team boss Claire Williams.

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