F1 – Australian GP – Qualifying
Howdy, MiniFans! After making an appearance throughout the weekend, the rain peeked from behind a few clouds before qualifying kicked off, and threatened to come back before it was over, holding the promise of some fun thanks to a wet track. However, F1 is notorious for jinxing the weather forecast and whisk the rain away…
The possibility of variable track conditions meant that any car not thinking about making it to Q3 left the pits pretty much as soon as the clock started ticking for Q1 attempts. Once the first laps from these drivers were over, the other half of the grid went out, but their fun was cut short by a red flag caused by Pérez missing the braking point and getting stuck in the gravel. The Mexican driver complained about similar issues with his Red Bull to those that had plagued his FP3 before his car was retired from the runoff area and the session could be resumed.
The usual suspects were sitting at the top close to the end of the session, with both Albon and Hulkenberg being the positive surprises as they placed themselves in the top ten before the track improvement allowed another unexpected name or two in there. After a few laps, Mercedes seemed to have finally found some speed to join the top dogs at the front, while Ferrari was still somewhat struggling. The eliminated drivers in Q1 were Piastri (P16), Zhou (P17), Sargeant (P18), Bottas (P19) and Pérez (P20, no time set).
Unlike the behaviour in Q1, Q2 started with every team bar one leaving the pits to clock in times as soon as possible. After a first round of laps and a deleted one due to track limits for Verstappen, the world champion sat comfortably on top as Alonso almost copied his time, leaving barely half a tenth between them. The drivers who wouldn’t make the cut seemed crystal clear until they started getting new tyres on the cars, lowering the times. However, the positions mostly went back to their previous owners after they all clocked laps in, and Alonso became the only driver to stay in the pits while the rest went out. The eliminated drivers in Q2 were Ocon (P11), Tsunoda (P12), Norris (P13), Magnussen (P14) and De Vries (P15).
With a weather forecast predicting rain in the last few minutes of the session, all drivers went out since the beginning of Q3 minus Stroll, who was lacking a second set of fresh softs. Verstappen claimed the first provisional pole position, but Alonso wasn’t about to let him get away with it, snatching it away from the Red Bull before Hamilton did the same to him. After the first run was over, the threat of rain looming over the track sped the ministrations of the teams.
The rain, as we’re used to, never made an appearance, allowing the drivers to go all out until the very last second. The fight for pole was over as soon as Verstappen hit the throttle in his last attempt, cutting off half a second from his previous lap time, but Mercedes had a couple aces up their sleeve, managing to slot Russell and Hamilton in second and third, closely followed by Alonso, whose yet to pull a bad move this season.
Stability and reliability issues have plagued Red Bull this season, albeit they haven’t really been affecting their race results much. However, this time it meant sending Pérez to the back of the grid and Verstappen complaining about downshifting issues despite easily presenting his candidacy to race winner. The biggest shock came courtesy of Mercedes, who managed to fill in the top three, but it remains to see whether their qualifying pace can translate to the race.
And like always, here you have the animated version of the qualifying session with the MiniDrivers.
MiniDrivers – F1
2023 Australian GP – Qualifying