Lewis Hamilton has taken pole for the first Grand Prix of the year in Australia. Team-mate Jenson Button is alongside him on the front row, underlining the pace of the McLaren MP4-27.
The big surprise of the day is third-placed Romain Grosjean. The Frenchman put in a stunning lap to be less than four tenths off Hamilton’s pace. Team-mate Raikkonen made an error right at the end of Q1, which meant he did not make it through to the next part of qualifying. Raikkonen starts 18th, and will have a lot of work to do to get a decent result.
Mercedes continued to impress with Schumacher fourth, just three hundredths of a second behind Grosjean. Team-mate Nico Rosberg made a mistake in the last sector of his last flying lap, which cost him some time. He will start seventh, behind the Red Bull pair of Vettel and Webber.
Ferrari are the big disappointment of the weekend so far. Neither of the red cars made it into Q3. Massa was simply not quick enough, and Alonso spun into the gravel trap at turn 1 after putting a wheel on the grass under braking. The rear-end of the Ferrari looks very unstable, which makes the car impossible to drive on the limit. Thus far, it seems the radical design of the F2012 is not paying off.
Williams look a lot stronger than they did in 2011. Pastor Maldonado starts 9th, with Bruno Senna 14th. Hopefully this result is an indication of good things to come. Caterham have also made a step forward, although it’s not enough to put them among the midfield runners yet. Kovalainen and Petrov will start 19th and 20th. Marussia are 21st and 22nd, which is expected, and HRT are unlikely to qualify after both drivers were outside the 107% time in Q1.
The order has very much been shaken up over the winter, which makes for a very exciting start to the season. The race starts at 8am South African time tomorrow. Everything is in place for a thrilling race.