2014 AUSTRALIAN GP: LUIS HAMILTON TO THE FIRST POLE OF THE SEASON

The first qualifying session of the year marked the Pole of Lewis Hamilton. Alongside him will on front row will start the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo. Nico Rosberg, who had briefly taken first place before Hamilton and Ricciardo improved late on, was third ahead of McLaren's rookie Kevin Magnussen.

Both drivers, as well as fifth-placed Ferrari man Fernando Alonso, set their times on wet rubber with opinion split among the 10 runners as to which tyre compound was preferable. Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne showed his wet weather prowess with a superb sixth place ahead of Force India driver Nico Hulkenberg, both setting their times on intermediates. Behind the pair was debutant Daniil Kvyat, who impressed despite an off in Q3 on the run between Turns 10 and 11. He took eighth place on wet rubber, ahead of Williams drivers Felipe Massa (intermediates) and Valtteri Bottas (wets), although the latter must serve a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change before qualifying.

Several of the drivers who failed to advance from Q2 to Q3 were unable to improve thanks to yellow flags caused by Kimi Raikkonen's late crash as rain returned in intermediate conditions. The Ferrari driver lost the rear at the exit of Turn 3 and spun into the wall, with Vettel among those who were attempting to jump into the top 10 at the time. With both failing to make the cut in 12th and 13th, Jenson Button made it three world champions to fail to make the top 10 shootout in 11th.

Weather forecasts indicate that more rain is likely tomorrow, meaning strategy options are wide open if the intermittent and sometimes heavy rain seen today in Q2 and Q3 continues (with the rain having started right at the end of Q1). In the more unlikely event of dry conditions, two pit stops per car is theoretically the quickest strategy.

Rain arrived midway through Q1 meaning the drivers had only a couple of shots at setting a time worthy of making Q2. Max Chilton's Marussia missed the cut by 0.019s and he was joined in the drop zone by team-mate Jules Bianchi. After a gearbox change following FP3, Esteban Gutierrez will start last due to a five-place grid penalty. That promoted Marcus Ericsson to 19th on the grid for his F1 debut in the Caterham, ahead of the two Lotuses. Pastor Maldonado failed to set a time, leaving his inclusion in the race at the discretion of the stewards under the 107% rule. However, he set a time in FP3 that would have been enough had he repeated it in qualifying and therefore he should make the grid on Sunday.
 P.    DRIVER             TEAM           TIME         GAP 
 1. Lewis Hamilton      Mercedes AMG   1:44.231
 2. Daniel Ricciardo    Red Bull       1:44.548   +  0.317
 3. Nico Rosberg        Mercedes AMG   1:44.595   +  0.364
 4. Kevin Magnussen     McLaren        1:45.745   +  1.514
 5. Fernando Alonso     Ferrari        1:45.819   +  1.588
 6. Jean-Eric Bergne    Toro Rosso     1:45.864   +  1.633
 7. Nico Hulkenberg     Force India    1:46.030   +  1.799
 8. Daniil Kvyat        Toro Rosso     1:47.360   +  3.129
 9. Felipe Massa        Williams       1:48.079   +  3.848
10. Valtteri Bottas     Williams       1:48.147   +  3.916
    Q2 Fastest time: Nico Rosberg 1:42.264                
11. Jenson Button       McLaren        1:44.437   +  2.173
12. Kimi Raikkonen      Ferrari        1:44.494   +  2.230
13. Sebastian Vettel    Red Bull       1:44.668   +  2.404
14. Adrian Sutil        Sauber         1:45.655   +  3.391
15. Kamui Kobayashi     Caterham       1:45.867   +  3.603
16. Sergio Perez        Force India    1:47.293   +  5.029
    Q1 Fastest time: Daniel Ricciardo 1:30.775            
17. Max Chilton         Marussia       1:34.293   +  4.118
18. Jules Bianchi       Marussia       1:34.794   +  4.619
19. Esteban Gutierrez   Sauber         1:35.117   +  4.942
20. Marcus Ericsson     Caterham       1:35.157   +  4.982
21. Romain Grosjean     Lotus          1:36.993   +  6.818
22. Pastor Maldonado    Lotus          no time
    107% time: 1:37.129