rediff.com

NewsApp (Free)

Read news as it happens
Download NewsApp

Available on  

Rediff News  All News 
Rediff.com  » Sports » F1 pitlane tales: Hamilton's pole stunner 'a punch in the stomach'

F1 pitlane tales: Hamilton's pole stunner 'a punch in the stomach'

Last updated on: March 24, 2018 21:58 IST

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton relaxes in the paddock after qualifying on Saturday

IMAGE: Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton relaxes in the paddock after qualifying on Saturday. Photograph: Brandon Malone/Reuters

Lewis Hamilton's devastating pace on his pole lap at the Australian Grand Prix was akin to Mercedes throwing a 'pie in everyone's face', Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo said after qualifying on Saturday.

 

World champion Hamilton stormed to pole with a record lap of one minute 21.164 seconds at Albert Park, with a gap of more than six-tenths of a second to the second placed Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen.

Edged out by Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel in the second qualifying session, Briton Hamilton improved his lap time by nearly a second in Q3, leaving Ricciardo and his other rivals stunned.

"That sucks," said the Western Australian, who finished almost a second off Hamilton in fifth and will start Sunday's race in eighth due to a grid penalty.

"It's frustrating because I think everyone else wants to see them get challenged a bit more, so that was a little bit of a punch in the stomach to everyone.

"I didn't expect that much," Ricciardo added, referring to Hamilton's improvement in the last session.

"I knew they had a bit more, I expected them to be more than two-tenths quicker than us.

"That (margin) was like throwing a pie in everyone's face.

"I know that obviously they're loving it, they're in a good position, but everyone else is hating it.

"Hopefully we can catch up, hopefully in the race they don't have as much of that, because that's a bit scary, that (engine) mode they've got. We've got to try and figure it out."

Hamilton denied Mercedes had triggered a different engine mode for Q3, which has been nicknamed the 'party mode', but was contradicted by team boss Toto Wolff.

Wolff, however, put the dramatic pace jump from Hamilton's first effort in Q3 to his pole-winning second run down to brilliant driving.

"There is a party mode in the car, we switched the party mode on in Q3," the Austrian told reporters.

"There was no difference from the first run in Q3 to the second run in Q3, he just said that he had a great lap, pulled it all together, carried more speed through the apexes.

"The gap was down to Lewis Hamilton putting in a lap with the grip level that he didn’t seem to be able to extract before.

"Everything was in the sweet spot, I guess. There wasn’t any difference in modes."

McLaren ready for 'attack mode', says buoyed Alonso

McLaren's hopes of returning to the Formula One big-time with Renault power appeared ambitious after qualifying at the Australian Grand Prix on Saturday but a relieved Fernando Alonso was content to be in the hunt for points.

Twice world champion Alonso and Belgian teammate Stoffel Vandoorne failed to break into the top 10 for the third and final session at Albert Park and their aspirations of re-joining the likes of Mercedes and Ferrari at the front seem far-fetched.

There was, however, some relief that the cars suffered no major reliability problems after they had a number of glitches during pre-season testing.

Alonso, the fastest of the five cars eliminated in Q2, is set to be promoted to 10th on the grid for Sunday's race if Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas is handed a penalty for a gearbox change after a crash during Q3.

Vandoorne will line up one place behind the Spaniard.

"It’s what we have today and what we deserve. Happy with it," said Alonso.

"I think we showed some performance in the free practice, especially this morning in damp conditions.

"I think we have a huge potential to unlock in the car, we’re still having some issues before unlocking everything so I think the next coming races we can look forward to the season very optimistic."

Fallen giants McLaren split with engine supplier Honda last year after three miserable seasons, and the Woking-based outfit have placed high hopes on the Renault engine that powered Red Bull to three wins in 2017.

There may have been some satisfaction in the McLaren garage that both Toro Rosso cars, now using Honda power units, were knocked out in Q1.

 “I think our race pace is probably better than our qualifying pace, so we’re in a good starting position," said 36-year-old Alonso, who has not reached the podium since moving from Ferrari to McLaren in 2015.

"So definitely some good points are the target. Tomorrow will probably be one of the first races in the last couple of years where we won’t need to defend, and we will go for the attack mode."

Haas enjoy best-ever qualifying despite 'replica' barbs

Haas celebrated the US-owned Formula One team's best qualifying performance on Saturday and batted off suggestions that their car was a 'replica' of last year's race-winning Ferrari.

Danish driver Kevin Magnussen will start Sunday's race at Albert Park in fifth place with French team mate Romain Grosjean lining up in sixth after Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo took a three place drop.

It was only the second time the Ferrari-powered team, who made their F1 debut in 2016, had both drivers qualifying in the top 10.

The team's previous best grid placing was eighth for Grosjean and 10th for Mexican Esteban Gutierrez in Japan in 2016.

Haas's pace caught the attention of rivals in testing, with some tipping them to be the potential surprise of the season, but there have also been comments about the team's close technical ties to Ferrari.

"They have obviously a Ferrari replica of last year and Ferrari were winning here (in 2017)," McLaren's double world champion Fernando Alonso had said on Friday after the first practice sessions.

"Haas appears to be very fast and maybe is right behind the top three teams and it will be hard to beat, especially in the first race and the first part of the season," added the Spaniard, a former Ferrari driver.

Grosjean, who has long aspired to be a Ferrari driver, said disparaging comments about the Ferrari ties were unfair even if Haas used the same engine, gearbox and suspension as the Italians.

"It’s the same thing every time we’re fast," said the Frenchman. "It was the same thing last year, we were ‘Ferrari B'," he added.

"It’s not true and it’s not nice for the people that work at Haas."

Magnussen, a former McLaren driver, said Alonso -- who qualified 11th but starts 10th -- was just annoyed that Haas were ahead.

"I'm really proud of the team, and impressed. We've got a car that's competitive here, it's the fourth best car on the grid this weekend," he told reporters.

"This team is the smallest on the grid, and if not the lowest then one of the lowest budgets and the least amount of people and resources. And yet we've got the fourth best car on this track in qualifying."

Ferrari had Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel qualifying second and third with Red Bull's Max Verstappen fourth. Mercedes' four times world champion Lewis Hamilton starts on pole position.

Netflix and Formula One team up for documentary series

Netflix are to make a documentary series chronicling the 2018 Formula One season and which will be screened next year, the sport's rights holders announced on Saturday ahead of the opening race in Australia.

Formula One said the makers of the 10-part series would have unparalleled and exclusive access over the course of the year to the drivers, team bosses and owners as well as the sport's management team.

"Formula One is a global sport that we are actively repositioning from a motorsport company to a media and entertainment brand," said Sean Bratches, F1's managing director of commercial operations, in a statement.

"The agreement with Netflix serves to chronicle the fascinating story of what transpires behind the scenes during a grand prix season.

"This is a perspective of the sport that has yet to be unveiled to fans around the world. This series will unleash a compelling vantage point to the sport that will delight fans and serve as a catalyst to entice new fans."

US-based Liberty Media took over the sport in January last year and plans to grow the sport and appeal to a younger demographic.

Source:
© Copyright 2018 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.