Australian Grand Prix – Qualifying

Well this is it!
Time for the drivers to drop their trousers and show us what they’ve got (in a manner of speaking). After weeks of smoke and mirrors, we are about to find out how the grid will line up for the very first race of the season.
Double shot Americano at the ready (it won’t be the last). I am going in.
Straight into a montage with lots of glorious old footage (it gets me every time) the essence of which is F1 used to be about inspiring and innovation and pioneers until it sacrificed excitement on the altar of speed. And it all became a procession (I’m sure we had processions back in the 80s but anyway). But now A New Era has dawned and F1 is saved (let’s check the lie of the land at Silverstone shall we?)

The stage is set (with slightly less blue sky in reality)
There are some changes to the rules for qualifying. The sessions are now Q1 – 18 mins, Q2 – 15 mins and Q3 – 12 mins. Cars going out in Q3 have to start on the tyres they finished on in Q2. So cars will probably use the soft ‘faster’ tyre in Q2 if they think they’ll be in the top ten shoot-out. But if its doubtful that drivers would make the cut for Q3 why would they bother wasting a set of soft tyres when they would get a set of new options for the race.
This year we have 19 races but new in are Austria (yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeessssss – I used to absolutely adore the Austrian GP!) and Russia (that won’t be oligarch central much – Lenin will be spinning in his Bolshevik grave) in place of India and Korea. Thank the Lord those two races have been binned. They were the F1 equivalent of a brain-eating ameoba. The final race of the season in Abu Dhabi will be worth DOUBLE points. This could be a stroke of genius or spectacularly implode. On the face of it, I think it could actually work.*

*Edit: heavy sarcasm

The old A1 Ring, now known as the Red Bull Ring (still its a welcome return!)
Ah it’s Ted’s ‘F1 Aerodynamics Explained’ section. I would look over to the husband  but he is not even up yet. At 8am. The decadence of it all. Nice life if you can get it
We have a beachside interview with Simon Lazenby and Lewis Hamilton – the most interesting part being when Simon asked Lewis about the ‘wifey’ comment he made about Nicole ‘LOOK AT ME’ Scherzinger recently. Apparently wifey is a ‘young’ term. Really Lewis? Really? It is hard to cut it in the ‘cool as’ world of Lewis where anyone over 35 is probably seen as geriatric! I’m with Team Simon on this one. Yes how things change!

Pat Symonds now at Williams
…and a much younger Pat Symonds with Ross Brawn in their Benetton days!
Pat Symonds is back at Williams as Chief Technical Officer – and what a brilliant brilliant signing that is for them. Super experienced and a real heavyweight of F1. He makes a great interviewee as well – talks about things clearly and simply which is unusual sometimes in F1. Am so hopeful and excited for Williams this season. Also did I mention their cars are sporting a tribute to Ayrton Senna this year on the side of their nose which is a lovely gesture. Its 20 years this season since he was tragically killed at Imola. How can it really be 20 years already!?

Ayrton Senna Sempre

Another beachside interview and this time Natalie is chatting to Jenson Button and oh poor Jenson, he still seems so cut up about this Dad. Understandably of course and how hard it must be for him to be back at a Grand Prix venue without his Dad alongside him. I would dearly LOVE him to have a blinding race tomorrow!
It’s (finally!) time for qualifying at the 2014 Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix. And excitingly there is talk of cross-winds and tail-winds and that looks like an angry sky up there
Q1 – The husband (who has finally made an appearance!) has commented on the different engine tone. Yes (I said) its like a raspy roar (totally stealing Johnny Herbert’s earlier line but he doesn’t know that is a stolen line because he was ASLEEP). I have just spotted Ron Dennis looking scarily happy (which I think might be scarier than his cross face) in the McLaren garage. This would be the same Ron Dennis who won’t be going to races this season and will take a very backseat role. Ron, no one was fooled! But it is of course brilliant to see him back where he belongs.

And with 7 minutes to go it has started to rain. Poor bloody Lotus – their car is a total dog, they have done sweet F.A. testing and now the weather gods are conspiring against them. Maldonado is checking out different gravel run-off areas and his team-mate’s response at being told to speed up is “I cannot”. It is now tippling down with 3 minutes to go so presumably that’s Q1 abruptly terminated.

Maldonado battling the elements but mainly the car during qualifying earlier today

The following drivers have ended up in the Dropzone of Doom: 17. Chilton, 18. Bianchi, 19. Gutierrez, 20. Ericsson, 21. Grosjean and Maldonado (who didn’t even set a time – what an abysmal weekend for Lotus so far).  

Last year’s Australian GP winner. A lot has changed in 12 months.
The Sky team are currently taking shelter from the torrential rain in the Pirelli tent (actually its quite a posh tent with Mac computers and a fruit basket). Note to self – never ever book a holiday to Australia in March. Unless of course its to see the Australian Grand Prix when I’ll happily get rained on! And there are men with brooms on the track – we are already ticking off a lot of things on F1 Bingo.
Q2 – Currently now underway but am most obsessing about ‘KVY’ who is in 15th. Who ARE you? Clearly I should have done a bit more pre-season blog prep. Okay a lot more! So with 5 minutes of Q2 to go, here is the current top half running order:
But apparently it now going to get serious (because it wasn’t already?) as all the cars frantically change tyres. Well Johnny (or Damon or Martin) was right – Q2 is way more exciting than last year. Vettel is currently in the dropzone along with Kimi. And in the final minute, Kimi climbs into the top 10 as well as Hulk and…OMG…Kimi has spectacularly CRASHED his Ferrari into the wall.

Taxi for Kimi
Vettel is driving like a mad man out on track (as well he might currently languishing in 15thplace). Magnussen goes 5th fastest but everyone’s eyes are on Vettel…he can only finish in 13th place after a very wild lap (in tough conditions to be fair) and you can hear the huge cheers from the locals. Which of course means that home favourite Ricciardo (and who doesn’t love Daniel Ricciardo – he is a bit like a big teddy bear!) has out-qualified his illustrious team-mate in his first race! And International Man of Mystery ‘KVY’ has squeaked into 10th place knocking Button down into the drop zone.

So dumped out of Q2 are: 11. Button, 12. Kimi, 13. Vettel, 14. Sutil, 15. Kobayashi, 16. Perez
Q3 – Well here we go. The Moment of Truth. Its still raining and all the cars are on wets except for Alonso (I think that’s the wrong call though Martin Brundle thinks inters could be ok and he’s the expert). Incredibly there are two Toro Rosso’s in the top ten. It really is an amazing start to F1 by Kvyat (or ‘Fiat’ as Crofty calls him). Five minutes to go and it’s a projected Mercedes 1-2 with Ricciardo in 3rd.

The man behind the KVY moniker
And a random gravel diversion for Rosberg which destroys his lap. The cars are twitching and twisting wildly all over the track even on straight line sections. Massa comes perilously close to hitting a concrete wall. The Williams cars are currently in 8th and 10th spot which is not where they would have wanted or hoped to be. Hamilton grabs provisional pole as Alonso only crosses the line in 5th. Then Nico Rosberg grabs pole back. Meanwhile more yellow flags as Kvyat crashes off. And deafening cheers as Ricciardo takes provisional pole (to deafening roars all round the track) but, at the death, party-pooper Lewis Hamilton RE-TAKES POLE. Absolutely sensational edge of seat stuff.

This is the man who put Red Bull on the front row of the grid tomorrow – ha!

So the top ten on the grid tomorrow will look like this:
1.     Hamilton
2.     Ricciardo
3.     Rosberg
4.     Magnussen (hugely impressive debut)
5.     Alonso
6.     Vergne
7.     Hulkenberg
8.     Kvyat (another great debut)
9.     Massa
10.  Button (as Bottas has a 5 place grid penalty for new gear box)
You know what, I think I’m going to like the 2014 season.


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