Hamilton leads a McLaren charge in 2012’s first qualifying

Posted on March 17, 2012


McLaren today turned out to be the form team in Australia, locking out the front row of the Melbourne grid with a fast, efficient performance at 2012’s first qualifying session.

Lewis Hamilton was bang on form for the start of the season today. Credit: McLaren.com

Lewis Hamilton will lead the pack early tomorrow morning after a sensational lap gave him the perfect start to the new season. Team mate Jenson Button set a handy time for second place but Lewis was untouchable.

Happily the top eight were covered by just one second, with eye catching performances from Lotus’s Romain Grosjean and Mercedes’ Michael Schumacher – with fourth the seven time champion’s best qualifying performance since his come back. The field looks pretty competitive.

Against many expectations, the Red Bull team did not have the extra 5% in Q3. Most were expecting the reigning champions to turn up the wick. We’ve seen it so many times before, especially last year, and again Sebastian Vettel was last over the line. But it didn’t happen, didn’t even look like it was going to happen.

Unlike last year, the Red Bull doesn’t look like it’s on rails. Maybe it’s losing the blown diffuser, maybe it’s a lack of grip. But Red Bull were far from fasted today.

Qualifying saw disasters for some. Neither Ferrari made it into Q3 after Fernando Alonso binned it in the gravel trap. Pushing too hard, he left a wheel on the grass and span out. He looked furious with the stewards for not pushing him out but he can only blame himself for a poor mistake.

Equally poor was Kimi Raikkonen failing even to make Q2. He’s had some issues with the steering this weekend but the pace is clearly in the car – third place Grosjean was just a few tenths off pole. It was a curiously low key return for the Finn.

Predictably, HRT had a nightmare first competitive session. They finished building one of the cars just hours before qualifying and they were mobile chicanes out there. Both cars were two seconds slower than even the Marussia Virgins and they don’t deserve to race tomorrow. It’s a shame after what appeared to be a much better winter, but they are not even close to the 107% time and they have no form.

But the story of the day is really Hamilton. After his nightmare 2011 maybe, maybe, the 2008 world champion is ready to get back to what he’s best at: hustling his car around a circuit faster than anyone else. He should win tomorrow.

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