Sunday, March 15, 2015

Hamilton and Mercedes AMG at Top of Grid for Australian GP Opener

Photo Credit: Mercedes AMG

The start of the 66th Formula 1 season has arrived. With many changes occurring to the Formula 1 series in preparations for the 2015 Australian Grand Prix opener, some had easier decisions to make than others. The McLaren-Honda partnership is now officially underway, four-time champion Sebastian Vettel is now a Ferrari driver and the Marussia team rose from the grave after being buried late last season under the name Manor Marussia. It was the teams that finished best in 2014 that made the fewest changes. At the top of the list, 2014 Formula 1 Constructors' Champion Mercedes AMG returned with Nico Rosberg and defending drivers' title holder Lewis Hamilton wheeling their 2015 W06 Hybrid race car. While teams other than Mercedes AMG were hoping that a new year could bring a stop the German team's championship dominating performance, qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix on Saturday has shown Mercedes AMG and Lewis Hamilton could still be in 2014 form.

Mercedes AMG race cars topped the qualifying boards at the end of all sessions of qualifying on the 5.903-kilometer, 11-turn Albert Park circuit. Through a commanding performance, a lap time of 1-minute, 26.327 seconds in the final Q3 session delivered from Lewis Hamilton secured the Brit on the pole for Sunday's Australian Grand Prix. Almost 6/10th of a second faster than his teammate Nico Rosberg in the timed session, Hamilton credits his Mercedes-AMG team for continuing to put good cars under him.

While Red Bull Racing claimed second in the constructors' points after last season, the Martini Williams Racing organization posted one of the more impressive efforts showing incredible improvement after a near fruitless 2013 season. The customer Mercedes-Benz engines as well as a team consisting of the formidable duel of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas performed mostly consistently in 2014 but fall short of victory. In Albert Park for the opening race of 2015, Williams' most-veteran driver Felipe Massa posted the third fastest time in Q3 (just under 8-10ths of a second slower than factory Mercedes-Benz race cars). Bottas starts was sixth fastest after qualifying but reported pain to his back following the session. It may be unlikely he'll race the Australian Grand Prix.

Felipe Massa's former team, Scuderia Ferrari grabbed fourth and fifth place starting spots for Sunday. Newcomer to the team Sebastian Vettel narrowly best his teammate Kimi Raikkonen for the advantage. Behind Valtteri Bottas' Williams-Mercedes, Red Bull Racing new veteran driver Daniel Ricciardo grabbed seventh. With a one-season of Formula 1 experience at Red Bull Racing's sister team Toro Rosso for 2014, Daniil Kyvat promotion to the top team has resulted in a lackluster qualifying effort. The Russian placed his Red Bull-Renault in the 13th place on the gird ahead of two struggling Force India team cars.

McLaren and Lotus teams both have new engines for the 2015 season. Honda's return to Formula 1 in partnership with the McLaren team did not show considerable speed in Australia. In fact both McLaren Honda cars failed to break through the early Q1 group of qualifying. Jenson Button nudged-out his teammate of the Australian Grand Prix race weekend Kevin Magnussen for the 17th place spot. Magnussen, claiming the 18th position in qualifying, was demoted to the McLaren Honda team's test driver position for 2015 but was reactivated for competition after Fernando Alonso was injured in a serious crash in pre-season testing. Alonso could return to the McLaren race car in time for the next race in Malaysia. As McLaren dropped the Mercedes-Benz power units after 2014, Lotus F1 Team signed on to take engines from the Germany company. After the first full Formula 1 time trial session was completed, Lotus' decision for the 2015 has appeared to be paying off with both Lotus-Mercedes race cars braking into the top-10 in qualifying.

2015 Formula 1

Australia Grand Prix

Qualifying Results

Position # Car # Driver Team Engine
1 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG Mercedes-Benz
2 6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes AMG Mercedes-Benz
3 19 Felipe Massa Williams Mercedes-Benz
4 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari Ferrari
5 7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari Ferrari
6 77 Valtteri Bottas Williams F1 Renault
7 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Renault
8 55 Carlos Sainz Jr Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault
9 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus Mercedes-Benz
10 13 Pastor Maldonado Lotus Mercedes-Benz
11 12 Felipe Nasr Sauber Ferrari
12 33 Max Verstappen Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault
13 26 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull Renault
14 27 Nico Hulkenberg Force India Mercedes-Benz
15 11 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes-Benz
16 9 Marcus Ericsson Sauber Ferrari
17 22 Jenson Button McLaren Honda
18 20 Kevin Magnussen McLaren Honda
19 28 Will Stevens Manor Marussia Ferrari
20 98 Roberto Merhi Manor Marussia Ferrari

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