As if there wasn’t enough uncertainty, thanks to the new technical rules that have made running these cars a far more complex exercise than in the past, this afternoon, we also had the rain to contend with in Albert Park. The wet conditions didn’t deter our boys, quite the opposite in fact, as Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniil Kvyat both made it all the way through to Q3. Our Frenchman secured sixth place on the grid while the Russian will start his first-ever Formula 1 race from eighth spot, quite an achievement. The last time we got both our drivers into the top ten was the final race of 2013 in Brazil, so we’ve started as we ended last season. A little bit better in fact, as in Sao Paulo we were seventh and eighth.
Within a Formula 1 team, there’s rarely time to take any interest in what other drivers are doing, but everyone in our garage, rushed into the pit lane after the session, to catch Daniel Ricciardo walking back to his garage. We clearly did a good job training our former driver, as he did brilliantly to secure a spot on the front row for his home Grand Prix. The Aussie lines up tomorrow alongside pole man, Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes. The Englishman’s team-mate Nico Rosberg is third, with Kevin Magnussen the best rookie, in fourth place for McLaren. Behind came Fernando Alonso for Ferrari, while Nico Hulkenberg was seventh in the Force India, splitting the two Toro Rossos. The Williams duo of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas. The one fly in the ointment for our duo was the fact that Daniil kissed the wall trying to improve in the closing moments of the session. The damage wasn’t too bad and he managed to bring it home to the garage.
For a first qualifying of the season, it’s hard to imagine doing better, with some good calls on the tyre strategy front too: the Toro Rossos and the hot favourite Mercedes were the only cars to get out of Q1 without using the Soft tyre. Doing a few quick laps on low fuel is one thing, but tomorrow comes the first true test of the year, as the drivers will try and complete 58 laps. Apart from the reliability issues, this will be a challenging afternoon in terms of fuel consumption, as this track is one of the “thirstiest” on the calendar.