Well, our season preview said Mercedes were formidable. But qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix showed that they are 1.6% faster than the best of the rest, and Lewis Hamilton put in a blistering qualification lap to put a gap of over half a second between himself and team-mate Rosberg.
Williams, again following predictions, got third in the shape of Felipe Massa, after a small error by Bottas meaning he qualified sixth behind the resurgent Ferraris of Vettel and Raikonnen, and rookie Carlos Sainz drove superbly to start eighth in his first ever F1 race, just behind Daniel Ricciardo, who outdrove the underpowered Red Bull to get ahead of the two Lotus cars rounding out the top 10.
Disastrous qualifying from McLaren Honda
The pre-season troubles of McLaren were far from over this weekend, and the non-running of Manor/Marussia, who could not get their car to run due to technical problems, meant that McLaren qualified last on the grid, with the faster Jenson Button some five seconds off the pace of Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes. My money says they are unlikely to finish the race tomorrow, with either technical trouble or simple face-saving taking them out of the spotlight.
Sainz did best from the rookie drivers with his magnificent P8, and the youngest-ever F1 driver, 17-year-old Max Verstappen, acquitted himself well with 12th place. Sadly, Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi at Manor did not have the opportunity to turn a wheel as the team, which only exited administration a few weeks ago, could not get their machines to operating status. Danny Kvat had a fire in practice, which cut into his Qualifying 1 time, and could only manage 13th, a position he should manage to improve on in the race.
Sauber driver line-up now clear
The legal case brought by Giedo van der Garde against Sauber has been dropped, to allow them to race this weekend, but Giedo’s management are now negotiating a deal to compensate the Dutch driver, who was originally contracted to drive for the team. On track, the cars performed relatively well, with Nasr in 11th and Ericcson in 16th place.
A win for Hamilton, Rosberg second, and Vettel pinching 3rd with a great start and good tyre strategy, along with strong performances from Kimi, Massa, Sainz, and (back problems permitting), Bottas – with perhaps a surprise from Ricciardo at his home race if the Red Bull can match pace with the Williams over the race.
But I could be wrong – please enter our FVL F1 Podium Winners Competition – correctly guess the 1-2-3 on the podium and win a £50 voucher!