2014 Australian GP: Wet qualifying produces thrilling session
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The 2014 Australian GP weekend started off with a lot of unanswered questions: Was Red Bull Racing really struggling? Was Mercedes really the team to beat? Will Sebastian reign again down under? Will the rookies make a difference?
Well, Friday practice did show that some of the usual suspects still lorded it over the standings, but as the wet qualifying sessions began Saturday, all eyes were transfixed on the action. Cars were going off, with drivers finding the cars a bit too twitchy. Even the veterans were going on excursions outside of the track.
Then the heavens opened up, and the 30-degree temperature quickly dropped. Suddenly, everyone found it difficult to go out on slicks.
As the qualifying session progressed, some notable names who were not able to move on the Q2 were Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado of Team Lotus. Also failing (in no particular order) were Marcus Ericsson (Caterham), Max Chilton and Jules Bianchi (Marussia), and Esteban Gutierrez (Sauber). As the rains kept on pelting the Albert Park circuit, drivers made do with the time and tires they were given. But as the great equalizer it has always been known to be, the rain relegated Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari), Jenson Button (McLaren) and defending champion Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) to the midfield after they failed to improve on their times.
When Q3 came about, everyone came out on full wets with the exception of Fernando, who tried out Intermediates. As the rain continued, everyone realized that running full wets was the better option.
In the dying seconds of Q3, Rosberg took pole, but Aussie Daniel Ricciardo, making his debut in the #2 RB10, took the top spot to the delight of his home crowd. But this didn’t last long as British driver Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes drove a blinding lap to claim P1 for tomorrow race.
Both Bottas and Gutierrez have five-place grid penalties for gearbox changes, so the provisional starting order will be: Hamilton and Ricciardo; Rosberg and Magnussen; Alonso and Vergne; Hulkenberg and Kvyat; Massa and Button; Raikkonen and Vettel; Sutil and Kobayashi; Bottas and Perez; Chilton and Bianchi; Ericsson and Grosjean; Gutierrez and Maldonado.
All in all the fans that endured the cold and wet qualifying session, were all smiles for their local boy and are indeed looking forward to brilliant race come Sunday.
So who will reign down under?
Smart money would be on both Mercedes drivers doing well. If Daniel Ricciardo can keep his nose clean, he could be standing on the podium in Mebourne. Fernando Alonso could wrestle every bit of performance from his Ferrari and spring a surprise. Raikkonen and Vettel might find it hard to start from the mid field and will probably just break into the top 10.
Set your alarms for the race start at 2PM Manila time!