As the first qualifying session of the 2019 Formula One season begun, the track temperature had dropped to 39°c and it was in the last few minutes of the first elimination stage when the lap times started to fall as supported by Valtteri Bottas being told on the team radio ‘The track is improving very quickly’ and so it proved to be with Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas taking turns to lead the pack until Charles LeClerc shot to the top of the first stage with a 1:22.017 but who would grab pole?
The usual format for qualifying has carried over into 2019 and the first cars to fall through the trapdoor were ‘Lance Stroll, Pierre Gasly, Carlos Sainz, George Russell and Robert Kubica. This was hardly a surprise to the thousands watching at the Albert Park Circuit, the millions watching on television and probably the drivers themselves as they had been consistently off the pace throughout the session.
Robert Kubica made contact with a barrier for the second time today, this time at Turn 11 and consequently took the scenic route across the grass and eventually ended up at the back of the grid although that probably would have been the case even without his detour. The first elimination stage concluded with Charles LeClerc on top 1:22.017.
For the second part of qualifying, Lewis Hamilton wasted no time and 1:21.861 when the session was only a few minutes old but was soon overtaken by Charles LeClerc with a 1:21.739. Renault would not make the final session as they joined Albon, Kvyat and Giovinazzi - but tomorrow is another day.
To begin the third and final section of qualifying, there was a welcome unexpected addition in the form of Lando Norris in the McLaren. Eventually he would achieve a starting place of eighth and he is certainly one to keep an eye on tomorrow - an outstanding performance. Before this though, Lewis Hamilton told his team radio that he was struggling ‘with the right front brake’ and so it appeared from the on board camera with him wrestling the car. Meanwhile Valtteri Bottas broke the track record with 1:20.598.. and then…Lewis did the same with an amazing final lap - 1:22.043 and he could not be caught.
Lewis Hamilton achieved his eighth pole at Albert Park and in doing so, he also matches the records of Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher for the most pole positions at one circuit.
He told the crowd on the grid afterwards that he was ‘shaking it was so close.’
Tomorrow we race.