Lewis Hamilton snatched pole position in dominant fashion in Melbourne, after he displayed an utterly competitive pace in both qualifying and race simulations. Mercedes’ testing glitches seem to be long gone, whilst Ferrari had its weaknesses exposed so far in Australia. Vettel paid a heavy 0.7s from Hamilton in Q3, with his teammate Leclerc over 9 tenths off the pace.
However, there have been many surprises across the whole field today, which makes it the perfect occasion to draw a comparison between qualifying in 2018 and in 2019, in order to see who made the biggest leap.
Alfa Romeo Racing has to be the team that suffered the most dramatic changes over the winter, after it grew substantially throughout 2018. The returning Kimi Raikkonen made it to Q3, closing with a 1.22.314, which makes it 2.242s faster than last year’s best laptime in qualifying. The Swiss-based team started from a difficult position last year and later impressed with its fast-paced development rate, which allowed the drivers to fight at the top of the midfield multiple times.
Honda-powered Toro Rosso was eliminated in Q2 with Albon in P13 and Kvyat in P15, but the improvement is evident: 1.896s quicker than last year. The Italian team has been through a number of changes within the technical department, but the squad managed to keep the project safe with continuity and fresh ideas to maximise its potential. Haas, a strong midfielder, has emerged as the fourth best team today owing to Grosjean’s P6 immediately followed by Magnussen in P7. Their starting positions in Melbourne have not changed since last year, although Magnussen had the upper hand, but the most striking detail is that their gains are equal to 1.361s.
Thanks to Lando Norris’ impressive Q3 entry, McLaren was able to show off a 1.2s improvement compared to last year, when it was still struggling with overheating issues and lack of horsepower. Same goes for Racing Point, with Perez in P10 despite some discouraging signals throughout yesterday’s free practices. A disappointing outing comes from Renault this year. Unlike last year, neither of their drivers has reached Q3, as Nico Hulkenberg had to settle for 11th ahead of Ricciardo. A mere 0.970s gain reflects Renault’s scarce progress, as most of the improvement has been triggered by the new aero regulations.
Overall the three top teams are aligned in their progress. Mercedes leads the way, being 0.678s quicker than it was one year ago, whereas Ferrari closely follows with its 0.638s leap. Red Bull holds on one tenth behind its competitors, with 0.559s.
Williams is stuck at the bottom, paying a disappointing + 0.130s gap to last year’s performance, being the only team that has not improved.