Year after year, the first qualifying session of the season always defines the state of form of each car and again Mercedes has left things clear. After making a preseason "discreet" finally uncovered all its potential and its two drivers tomorrow will occupy the first places on the grid ahead of the Ferraris and Red Bull.
After three sessions of free practice between Friday and Saturday came the moment of truth. The classification started with a splendid sun and perfect track conditions. No problem. The Mercedes dominated the first minutes of Q1, but in the final section Leclerc with the Ferrari gave the surprise by just a few thousandths: 26 ahead of Hamilton.
The third place went to Bottas followed by Giovinazzi with Vettel in eleventh place without risking too much. At McLaren things went well on one side and bad on the other. Lando Norris finished Q1 in eighth place and Carlos Sainz was eliminated by signing the third-to-last place. The track improved in the final minutes and it seems that the Spaniard had traffic on his last quick lap attempt and was condemned to this poor result. And he did not have time to complete one more lap.
The pilots eliminated were: Stroll, Gasly, Sainz, Russell and Kubica
In the second round the duel between Mercedes and Ferrari was total, although they got Verstappen with the Red Bull and the Honda engine. Hamilton was the fastest ahead of Bottas and more than half a second did Verstappen, Leclerc, Grosjean and Vettel.
The surprise to get into the final Q3 was for Norris and McLaren, which shows that the English car has taken a step forward. He finished ninth.
The pilots eliminated were: Hulkenberg, Ricciardo, Albon, Giovinazzi and Kvyat
In the final Q3 the Mercedes, finally, uncovered their full potential and Ferrari did not know where to look. Bottas and Hamilton scored the best times with a lead of half a second over Vettel and eight tenths over Leclerc, a distance that in preseason did not seem so great in a single lap.
In the last attempt Hamilton put things in place ahead of Bottas, Vettel, Verstappen, Leclerc, Grosjean, Magnussen, Norris, Raikkonen and Perez.
The race will start tomorrow at 06:10 h (Spanish time).
GP Australia exit grid:
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m20.486s –
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m20.598s 0.112s
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m21.190s 0.704s
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull / Honda 1m21.320s 0.834s
5 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1m21.442s 0.956s
6 Romain Grosjean Haas / Ferrari 1m21.826s 1.340s
7 Kevin Magnussen Haas / Ferrari 1m22.099s 1.613s
8 Lando Norris McLaren / Renault 1m22.304s 1.818s
9 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo / Ferrari 1m22.314s 1.828s
10 Sergio Perez Racing Point / Mercedes 1m22.781s 2.295s
11 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1m22.562s –
12 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 1m22.570s –
13 Alexander Albon Toro Rosso / Honda 1m22.636s –
14 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo / Ferrari 1m22.714s –
15 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso / Honda 1m22.774s –
16 Lance Stroll Racing Point / Mercedes 1m23.017s –
17 Pierre Gasly Red Bull / Honda 1m23.020s –
18 Carlos Sainz McLaren / Renault 1m23.084s –
19 George Russell Williams / Mercedes 1m24.360s –
20 Robert Kubica Williams / Mercedes 1m26.067s