F1 2018 Australian Grand Prix qualifying result: Lewis Hamilton storms to pole position
PUBLISHED: 16:59 24 March 2018 | UPDATED: 16:59 24 March 2018
Wolfgang Wilhelm for Daimler AG
Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton is the bookies' favourite to win the 2018 Australian Grand Prix after storming to pole position in qualifying in Melbourne.
The 33-year-old F1 driver from Hertfordshire slammed in a near perfect qualifying lap to take pole for the season-opening race.
Hamilton claimed his 73rd career pole position with the fastest lap ever recorded at Albert Park – a stunning 1m 21.164s.
He finished ahead of the Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel, with Kimi clocking 1m 21.828s for second place on the starting grid.
It was Hamilton’s fifth consecutive pole in Australia, and seventh in total, with team boss Toto Wolff calling it an “unbelievable final lap”.
Hamilton said: “It’s the greatest feeling when you live up to your potential and you pull out a lap like I was able to.
“I’m not always able to do that but I was really happy with today’s performance.
“Up until this point, I haven’t thought at all about the race. So tonight and tomorrow morning I’ll start to put my focus onto that.
“Last season, Ferrari ultimately did a better job on Sunday. But we generally learn from mistakes and scenarios like that, so I’m hoping we’re better prepared for tomorrow.”
In Q3, Hamilton completed two runs on the UltraSoft tyres. Looking ahead to Sunday’s race, he said: “Ultimately it’s also how I’m able to manage the tyres at the start of the race.
“I remember Sebastian was really at my tail towards the end of my stint, which forced me to come into the pits and then he continued on for several laps and I got stuck behind Max Verstappen.
“So I’ll definitely bear that in mind and try my best to make sure that I’m in a better position tomorrow.”
Nevertheless, Hamilton is still the 4/9 favourite with William Hill to take the Australian Grand Prix chequered flag after qualifying fastest in Melbourne by more than half a second.
Vettel is 11/2 second favourite with Kimi Raikkonen, who qualified in second place, third in the betting at 13/2.
“Hamilton is starting exactly where he left off with another fantastic qualifying campaign and he is the short price favourite to fly off the grid and make it one from one in the early hours of Sunday,” said William Hill spokesman Joe Crilly.
Hamilton’s Silver Arrows colleague Valtteri Bottas crashed on his first run in Q3 and will start tomorrow’s Australian Grand Prix from P15 on the grid owing to a gearbox change.
Hamilton said: “I know how hard Valtteri has been working and I know the pain he feels right now, but he will recover.
“He was very quick through practice and he has been putting a lot of effort into growing as a driver and as a member of the team.
“I have all the confidence in him to pull through again tomorrow.”
Both Mercedes drivers completed one run on the UltraSoft compound tyres in Q1 and then two runs in Q2.
Of his crash, Bottas said: “I think I was just pushing a bit too hard. I went wide in Turn 1 and the kerb was still a bit damp.
“I lost the rear of the car and hit the wall outside of Turn 2. It’s very unfortunate and I feel sorry for the team because we have a really competitive car.
“It looked like it was damaged pretty badly, so I really hope we can fix it for the race.
“Overtaking is difficult on this track, but we’ll try everything we can. Maybe it’s a little easier this year with the added DRS zone, we’ll find out tomorrow.
He added: “We have a good car, so I’ll try to fight back the best I can. Once we get the car in the window, it seems like it’s really quick, so that’s something positive from today.”
After qualifying, Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said: “That was an unbelievable final lap from Lewis to see him find so much pace.
“We didn’t change anything on the car from the first run of Q3, it was just a case of Lewis putting all the pieces together and finding the limit on that last lap, with everything on the line; and this is the result, a really impressive pole position to start the new season.
“But it’s a garage of contrasting emotions today with a really unfortunate end to qualifying for Valtteri.
“It was a big hit and the boys will have a long job list to get the car ready to race.
“It’s now about putting the incident behind him and recovering as strongly as possible.
“We expect a very close race between the top three teams tomorrow; there is still a lot to do if we want to score a strong result in the race.”
Mercedes technical director James Allison added: “While we are hugely disappointed for Valtteri, who wasn’t able to show what he could do in the heat of battle in Q3, we are delighted in equal measure to see Lewis take pole position by a decisive margin.
“It wasn’t at all easy, with track conditions changing rapidly through the session as the track cooled off, but we believed that our car had some good pace – and it was lovely to see that performance emerge over the final lap of Q3.
“It’s a first small milestone in our season, which reflects the hard work of our teams back at base in Brixworth and Brackley; but there is much still to be done if we wish to transform that pace into a decisive race result tomorrow.”