Lewis Hamilton won pole position for Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix as he started the new season where he left the last.
The world champion, who is looking to repeat his win in Melbourne in 2008, won all three testing sessions on Saturday to give teammate Nico Rosberg a reminder that he still has much to do. Rosberg will be second on the grid on Sunday but was a little over half a second slower than Hamilton. It was the British driver’s 39thpole and his fourth at Albert Park. Hamilton won pole here last year, though the race went to Rosberg.
“It’s a great start to the weekend,” Hamilton said. “I don’t feel it’s been a long time since the last race.”
Rosberg shrugged: “Lewis has been on impressive form and did an awesome job. It’s not a great start for me but the team have given me a great car to work with.”
Behind the Mercedes on the grid will be Felipe Massa (Williams), Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen (both Ferrari) and Valtteri Bottas (Williams).
McLaren came here with modest expectations as they continued to bed in their new Honda engine. But this was still one of the blackest days in their Formula One history. They will start at the back of the grid, because Manor were unable to run and will take no part in the race. It was a brutal result for a team that has won more Australian Grands Prix (12) than any other team.
“I was always thinking long term when I re-signed,” Button said. “I really do think that in the end we can challenge the Mercedes at the front. This a new package, not just in terms of the engine but the philosophy behind it, the aerodynamics and airflow. I’d rather not be at the back of the grid but I am not sitting here downhearted. It is a tough time now and there will be tough times for many weeks, but it will make us stronger. We have not done a race distance. So if we finish the race tomorrow, it may not sound much, but it will help a lot.”
In view of the fact that Hamilton was on slower tyres, the real gap between him and Button was about 4.5 seconds.
The casualties in Q2 were the Force India’s of Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez, Felipe Nasr (Sauber), Max Verstappen (Toro Rosso) and Daniil Kvyat (Red Bull). Nasr, though, went within 0.076s of making it to Q3; some effort after the legal problems the team have had this week.