Lewis Hamilton has claimed pole position for the Australian Grand Prix from his Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg on the P Zero Yellow soft tyre, which is up to 1.4 seconds faster than the P Zero White medium also nominated for the first race of 2015. Hamilton now becomes the most successful driver in the history of qualifying at Melbourne, with four pole positions at the circuit. Since 2005, the race has been won from pole six times, while the lowest placing from which the grand prix has ever been won is seventh.
Conditions started off warm in the Australian afternoon but cooled down during qualifying, with track temperatures dropping due to cloud cover and wind. The Mercedes drivers, plus Williams driver Valtteri Bottas, were the only people to get through Q1 using the medium tyre only. The teams all switched to the soft tyre for Q2, but Mercedes was the only team to complete the session with just one run.
Hamilton’s pole lap, claimed right at the end of Q3, ensures that Mercedes has been fastest in every session of the Australian Grand Prix held so far. Hamilton’s pole time of 1m26.327s was more than three seconds faster than fastest time of the weekend in 2014: 1m29.375s, set in FP3 as qualifying was wet. Hamilton was also fastest in FP3 this morning, using the soft compound tyres.
A two-stop strategy is likely for most drivers tomorrow, which was also the winning strategy last year. With the low wear and degradation seen at Melbourne, a one-stopper might theoretically be possible for some drivers. However, this would probably involve spending too much time on the slower medium tyre, making a two-stopper quicker – especially with a faster car.
The Pirelli strategy predictor:
A two-stop strategy is theoretically fastest for the 58-lap race. The quickest strategy goes: start on soft, change onto soft on lap 27, then medium on lap 52. A one stop is also possible, with the quickest option in this case being to start on the medium and then change to soft on lap 24; same quickest option if starting on the soft and then changing to medium on lap 34. However, there is a reasonably high safety car probability of 55% in Australia (a safety car also figured last year) that will clearly have an effect on strategy.
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery said: “This was one of the most eagerly-anticipated qualifying sessions of the year, which confirmed many of the trends that we have seen up to now. The tyres performed exactly as we expected them to with no trace of graining or blistering, despite changeable track conditions due to the wind and falling temperatures. The nomination we have made means that different strategies are possible, although a two-stopper will theoretically be fastest. Having seen the true qualifying pace of the 2015 cars, we now look forward to seeing their race pace when the lights go green tomorrow: there is still scope for some interesting surprises.” (Pirelli)
Fastest compounds in FP3:
Top 10 tyre use: