Reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton has begun his race for a fifth world title in a remarkable fashion as he took record-breaking pole position in Melbourne for Sunday’s opening race of the 2018 F1 season, the Australian Grand Prix.
Lewis took the pole position with his final flying lap of the day, breaking the all-time track record with a 1:21.164 to seal a record seventh pole in Australia and 73rd F1 career pole.
It was a bittersweet day for Mercedes-GP team, Pole sitter Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas crashed out heavily and is likely to start from the rear of the field.
Hamilton said in his post-qualifying interview: You would think it had become the norm with all the success we’ve had these last years, but it’s still just as intense.
My heart is racing. I’m always striving for perfection and that was as close as I could get today.”
“This was a Lewis Hamilton lap,” said an admiring Nico Rosberg on Sky F1.
“When he’s in this form the rest may as well pack up and go because there’s no way of beating him. That looked extremely special.”
Hamilton was 0.664 seconds faster than Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, with the Finn’s teammate Sebastian Vettel third quickest.
Max Verstappen had to settle for P4, while Daniel Riccardo will drop from P5 to P8 because of the penalty he picked up in practice on Friday for speeding in red flag conditions. Red Bull made a unrelated tyre strategy to Mercedes and Ferrari in a bid to out-last their frontrunning rivals in the first stint of Sunday’s grand prix.
Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean of Haas took sixth and seventh places, respectively, followed by Niko Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz of Renault in eighth and ninth.
McLaren duo Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne fail to reach top ten and will start in 11th and 12th positions, respectively.
It’s not the best start for McLaren’s new partnership with Renault after ditching the Honda-made engines the team had been using for the past three years.
Force India, who were fourth in the 2017 constructors’ championship had expected a tough start to 2018 as a number of modifications and updates are yet to be done to their car.
The championship’s debutant drivers had an underwhelming session, with Sauber’s Charles Leclerc and Williams’ driver Sergey Sirotkin eliminated early.