F1 Australian Grand Prix: Hamilton beats Vettel to pole position
Lewis Hamilton claimed pole position for the Australian Grand Prix, after winning a tense qualifying battle with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Mercedes Formula 1 team-mate Valtteri Bottas.
Hamilton was three tenths up on Vettel after the first runs in Q3, with Bottas just two thousandths of a second slower in third, before Daniel Ricciardo crashed his Red Bull heavily at Turn 14 and caused the session to be stopped.
Hamilton went even faster on his final run once the session resumed, sealing pole position with a 1m22.188s lap – the fastest ever recorded by an F1 car around Melbourne’s Albert Park circuit.
Bottas momentarily held top stop before Hamilton’s improvement despite a scruffy final flying lap, with Vettel then denying Mercedes a front row lockout by posting the second fastest time on his final run.
Despite setting the pace in final practice, Ferrari ultimately didn’t quite have the speed to challenge the best of the Mercedes drivers, with Vettel 0.268s down on Hamilton, but fractionally quicker than Bottas.
The second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen was fourth fastest, more than half a second further back, while the remaining Red Bull of Max Verstappen claimed fifth.
Romain Grosjean produced a stunning effort to qualify his Haas inside the top six, nearly four tenths clear of Felipe Massa’s Williams.
Massa was just 0.044s clear of Carlos Sainz Jr, who in turn narrowly beat Toro Rosso team-mate Daniil Kvyat to eighth on the grid.
Ricciardo wound up 10th after failing to set a time before his crash.
Neither Force India made it through to Q3. Sergio Perez, who complained of a gearshift problem, missed the cut by just 0.074s despite improving by nearly four tenths on his final flying lap, while Esteban Ocon failed to find time on his final run and wound up 14th.
Nico Hulkenberg qualified 12th fastest on his debut for the works Renault team, only 0.010s down on Perez, while Fernando Alonso manhandled the troubled McLaren-Honda to the 13th best time, ahead of Ocon and Marcus Ericsson’s Sauber.
Last-minute Sauber stand-in Antonio Giovinazzi was 16th fastest, after replacing the unfit Pascal Wehrlein ahead of final practice.
The Ferrari reserve was quicker than Ericsson after the first runs in Q1, but went off at the penultimate corner on his final effort, so wound up 0.183s down and failed to make the Q2 cut.
Kevin Magnussen’s difficult first weekend racing for Haas continued, the Dane running off track on his final Q1 flier and failing to improve his time.
He was fractionally faster than the second McLaren-Honda of Stoffel Vandoorne, who completed only one flying lap in qualifying after a fuel-flow problem forced him to return to the pits for most of the session.
Williams repaired rookie Lance Stroll’s car in time to make a late appearance in Q1, following his heavy crash at the end of FP3.
The Canadian was 19th fastest, though faces a grid penalty for a gearbox change ahead of the session, while Renault’s Jolyon Palmer qualified slowest of the 20 runners, more than a second down on Stroll and over three adrift of Renault team-mate Nico Hulkenberg.
|5||Max Verstappen||Red Bull/Renault||1m23.485s||1.297s|
|8||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso/Renault||1m24.487s||2.299s|
|9||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso/Renault||1m24.512s||2.324s|
|10||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull/Renault||–||–|
|11||Sergio Perez||Force India/Mercedes||1m25.081s||2.893s|
|14||Esteban Ocon||Force India/Mercedes||1m25.568s||3.380s|
F1 Australian GP: Ferrari driver Vettel fastest in final practice
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel broke the unofficial Albert Park lap record on his way to top spot in third practice, ahead of qualifying for the Formula 1 season-opening Australian Grand Prix.
Vettel was the early pace-setter as Ferrari decided to complete a burst of swift laps on ultra-softs in the opening minutes of the session, with he and team-mate Kimi Raikkonen setting the early pace.
German Vettel subsequently improved his time midway through the hour-long session, recording a session’s best of 1m23.380s – again set on a set of ultra-soft tyres.
That was enough for him to trump Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton, the pair ending up second and third respectively.
Unlike Ferrari, Mercedes decided to wait until later in the session to complete its runs on the ultra-soft tyre.
Bottas and Hamilton both headed to the track with a little under 20 minutes remaining, with Bottas jumping into second with a 1m23.859s and ending the session the faster of the two Silver Arrows.
Hamilton wasn’t far behind in third and tucked in with a 1m23.870s – although he did go fastest of all in the first sector on his flying lap, only to lose time by running slightly wide at Turn 13.
That wound up being the last of the significant improvements in the top order, as a Lance Stroll crash sparked the first red flag of the day when he hit the wall at the exit of Turn 10.
The Williams driver had just started an ultra-soft run with 10 minutes to go when he side-swiped the wall and rolled to a stop half way down to Turn 11.
The stoppage was long enough for the session not to be restarted.
Raikkonen ended up fourth in the second Ferrari, the Finn having suffered a puncture early on in the session – while his engine also cut out on the approach to Turn 13 as he ran up the escape road.
His best time was a 1m23.988s, with that effort more than a second faster than the next best car of Nico Hulkenberg.
Behind the Ferraris and Mercedes, Renault driver Hulkenberg was the best of the rest as he jumped from 10th to fifth late on with a best effort of 1m25.063s, also set on ultra-soft tyres.
That was enough for him to displace Daniel Ricciardo, who was the fastest Red Bull in sixth – the Australian and his team-mate Max Verstappen, who ended the session in 12th, both struggling to find time on their ultra-soft runs.
Ricciardo finished half a second clear of Romain Grosjean who was seventh in the leading Haas.
Toro Rosso pair Carlos Sainz and Daniil Kvyat were next, while Grosjean’s team-mate Kevin Magnussen was finally able to complete finally sufficient running and completed the top 10.
The McLarens were 14th and 15th, with Fernando Alonso finishing ahead of team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne.
Antonio Giovinazzi – who was confirmed as a late stand-in for Pascal Wehrlein before the session – completed 18 laps to end up just over a second behind Sauber team-mate Marcus Ericsson.
PRACTICE THREE TIMES
|6||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull/Renault||1m25.092s||1.712s||15|
|8||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso/Renault||1m25.948s||2.568s||11|
|9||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso/Renault||1m26.049s||2.669s||11|
|12||Max Verstappen||Red Bull/Renault||1m26.269s||2.889s||7|
|13||Sergio Perez||Force India/Mercedes||1m26.457s||3.077s||12|
|16||Esteban Ocon||Force India/Mercedes||1m27.103s||3.723s||16|
Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen said Ferrari did not have a clean run on Friday and shares his team-mates confidence that there is room for improvement.
"Nothing was as clean as we wanted and we have things to improve," said Raikkonen.
"We have to look at the big picture, this is the first day and everybody will go for tomorrow.
"It’s hard to say from today where we’re going to be against Mercedes, but we have to improve in a few areas and then we will see."
Seb e Kimi alla ricerca dell’assetto migliore
Melbourne – La prima giornata del nuovo mondiale è sempre un evento speciale, ma per Scuderia Ferrari le prove libere all’Albert Park hanno rappresentato semplicemente l’opportunità di svolgere il programma prefissato. Che, nel caso della SF70H, significa sostanzialmente lavoro su assetti e bilanciamento. Le specifiche di pneumatici fornite da Pirelli sono state tutte utilizzate da Sebastian e Kimi, partendo con la Soft per passare poi – nella seconda sessione – a Super e Ultrasoft.
L’asfalto molto sporco e i diversi carichi di benzina rendono impossibile una vera valutazione comparativa. Come ha riassunto Vettel alla fine delle prove: “Al venerdì è sempre difficile dire qualcosa. In ogni caso è stato bello sedersi di nuovo nell’abitacolo. Nella prima sessione abbiamo avuto qualche piccolo problema che ci ha un po’ rallentato, la seconda è andata meglio. Quanto al bilanciamento, oggi c’eravamo abbastanza, ma si può ancora fare di meglio. I tempi sul giro non contano niente: solo domani si scopriranno i giochi”.
Non molto diverso il commento di Raikkonen: “Possiamo essere contenti, nel complesso la giornata non è andata male. Abbiamo imparato molte cose e ora sappiamo in quali aree migliorare. Quanto alla prestazione, non si possono fare paragoni con i test invernali, anche perché questa è una pista un po’ anomala e non dà un quadro preciso della situazione”.
In totale sono stati 45 i giri compiuti da Seb nelle due sessioni (10+35) mentre Kimi ne ha accumulati 16 nella prima parte e 30 nella seconda.
F1 Australian GP: Hamilton fastest once again in second practice
Mercedes Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton continued his Australian Grand Prix stranglehold with the fastest time in second practice in Melbourne.
The three-time world champion was again more than half a second quicker than his nearest opposition, which in FP2 came in the form of Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari.
Vettel was the first driver to dip below the 1m25s mark when he used super-soft tyres to post a 1m24.926s early in the session.
The German’s spell at the top of the times was extended when the session was halted just over 20 minutes in by Jolyon Palmer’s heavy crash at the final corner.
Palmer was set to complete a personal-best lap when he lost the rear of his Renault and slammed backwards into the tyre wall on the outside of Turn 16.
The front left of the RS17 was pulled round into the wall by the impact, before the car bounced off and came to a rest in the middle of the track with substantial damage.
Once the wreckage was cleared Mercedes put Hamilton – who had already lapped within a tenth of Vettel’s super-soft time on soft tyres – and Valtteri Bottas out on ultra-softs.
Their first efforts were thwarted by yellow flags thrown for Felipe Massa’s Williams, which stopped as a result of a suspected electrical problem.
Bottas went quickest on his second run but lost time in the first sector and limited himself to a 1m24.176s.
Hamilton then blitzed that with a 1m23.620s, less than a tenth slower than the fastest ever lap of Albert Park – Vettel’s 2011 pole time.
Mercedes’ hopes of a second Friday practice one-two were dashed when Vettel squeezed ahead of Bottas on a 1m24.167s, but his 0.547s deficit to Hamilton is disappointing after Ferrari’s impressive pre-season testing pace.
Kimi Raikkonen was a further four tenths adrift in the second Ferrari and only just ahead of the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo, the last of sub-1m25s runners on a 1m24.650s.
Max Verstappen ran wide exiting Turn 12 on his first lap on ultra-soft tyres and the bumpy ride over the grass and gravel damaged the floor of his RB13.
It meant his best time of the session, a 1m25.013s, was his earlier effort on super-softs.
Massa’s problem allowed the impressive Carlos Sainz and Toro Rosso to claim best-of-the-rest honours in seventh behind the big three teams, with Romain Grosjean’s Haas, Renault driver Nico Hulkenberg and Sainz’s team-mate Daniil Kvyat completing the top 10.
Fernando Alonso gave McLaren-Honda further encouragement in 12th, 2.3s off the pace, while Stoffel Vandoorne was one of the busiest drivers of the session as the alliance’s recovery from a terrible pre-season continued.
An unknown problem for Kevin Magnussen limited the Haas driver to just six laps, while Marcus Ericsson caused a late yellow flag when he beached his Sauber in the Turn 6 gravel.
PRACTICE TWO TIMES
|5||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull/Renault||1m24.650s||1.030s||27|
|6||Max Verstappen||Red Bull/Renault||1m25.013s||1.393s||8|
|7||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso/Renault||1m25.084s||1.464s||34|
|10||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso/Renault||1m25.493s||1.873s||39|
|11||Sergio Perez||Force India/Mercedes||1m25.591s||1.971s||35|
|13||Esteban Ocon||Force India/Mercedes||1m26.145s||2.525s||37|
Formula 1 Australian GP: Hamilton fastest in first practice of 2017
Lewis Hamilton headed a Mercedes one-two in the opening practice session for the 2017 Formula 1 season-opening Australian Grand Prix.
Hamilton led new team-mate Valtteri Bottas as the German marque offered an early reality check in Melbourne after Ferrari dominated pre-season testing.
The Mercedes drivers led as soon as the class of 2017 started posting representative lap times, with Bottas holding the early advantage with a 1m25.142s on super-softs.
The Finn was the first to switch to ultra-soft tyres, and he improved to a 1m24.803s despite a mistake in the final sector on his best lap.
Hamilton made no such error when his turn came, and the three-time champion ended up more than half a second clear as he vaulted to the top on a 1m24.220s.
No other teams ran the softest-compound Pirellis, with Red Bull leading the super-soft charge.
Daniel Ricciardo kicked off his home grand prix weekend with the third-fastest time, 0.6s slower than Hamilton, which made the only non-Mercedes driver to dip below the 1m25s barrier.
Max Verstappen reported an early gear synch problem in the other Red Bull but wound up fourth, just clear of the two Ferraris.
Having led the way in Barcelona testing Kimi Raikkonen was more than a second off the pace in FP1 on a 1m25.372s, less than a tenth quicker than team-mate Sebastian Vettel.
As the leading trio of teams ran two-by-two, the battle to be fourth proved as tight as anticipated.
Felipe Massa was seventh for Williams, but Haas driver Romain Grosjean and new Renault signing Nico Hulkenberg both lapped within half-a-tenth the Brazilian.
Force India’s Sergio Perez, barely a tenth slower than Massa, completed the top 10 ahead of Carlos Sainz in the first of the Toro Rossos.
Further down the order, all eyes were on the two McLaren-Honda drivers to see if the MCL32 would run reliably after a disastrous pre-season.
Rookie Stoffel Vandoorne had a slow start in two ways, waiting almost an hour before setting a time and ending up bottom of the order.
His double champion team-mate Fernando Alonso fared better in 14th with a lap time 2.8s off the pace.
Alonso finished ahead of both Saubers, Esteban Ocon’s Force India and Jolyon Palmer’s Renault, which managed only six laps after a gearbox-related problem.
PRACTICE 1 TIMES
|3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull/Renault||1m24.886s||0.666s||19|
|4||Max Verstappen||Red Bull/Renault||1m25.246s||1.026s||19|
|10||Sergio Perez||Force India/Mercedes||1m26.276s||2.056s||29|
|11||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso/Renault||1m26.450s||2.230s||24|
|12||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso/Renault||1m26.514s||2.294s||25|
|16||Esteban Ocon||Force India/Mercedes||1m27.656s||3.436s||23|
Raikkonen ha rotto il turbo
È stata la rottura della turbina a provocare il ritiro di Kimi Raikkonen al 21° giro del Gp Australia. Il finlandese era arrivato lentamente ai box con le fiamme che uscivano dall’airscope. Si era lamentato via radio di un calo del motore, ma alla fine quando è sceso dalla macchina ha spiegato: “Non è un cedimento del propulsore perché il motore girava e mi ha permesso di rientrare ai box; c’è stata solo una perdita di potenza”.
Così alla fine si è capito che a cedere era stato il turbo, che nei motori F1 ibridi per regolamento, ricordiamo, è uno solo. In pratica il 1.6 V6 funzionava da… motore aspirato; inoltre cedendo il turbo, cede anche il sistema di recupero di energia dal turbo stesso che garantisce una bella quantità di cavalli a sua volta. Anche il fatto che il pilota sia stato fatto rientrare ai box doveva far supporre che il guasto non fosse al motore.“Se avessimo visto in telemetria che c’era un problema al motore, gli avremmo ordinato di parcheggiare subito la macchina a bordo pista senza farlo arrivare ai box”, spiega Arrivabene.
Probabilmente il guasto si è originato durante i 20 minuti di sosta con bandiera rossa. La turbina raggiunge temperature elevatissime, vicine ai mille gradi, e con la macchina ferma non transita aria dentro la carrozzeria per abbassare le temperature. I meccanici ai box di solito, proprio per raffreddare componenti incandescenti come turbina e freni, usano ventilatori. Forse sotto la carrozzeria strettissima della Ferrari n.7 dopo la neutralizzazione della gara, si è scatenato un calore enorme che ha danneggiato la turbina e così alla ripartenza, dopo pochi giri, il metallo della turbina ha ceduto facendo incendiare olio e plastica sotto la carrozzeria.
L’unica consolazione per Raikkonen è che non dovrà cambiare probabilmente motore in Bahrain ma semplicemente il turbo, contingentato anche lui (se si eccede con le sostituzioni si pagano posizioni in griglia) ma meno soggetto a usura come un intero propulsore in condizioni normali.
La tattica di Raikkonen sacrificata a favore di quella di Vettel
La Ferrari al primo pit stop ha deciso di richiamare prima Vettel, mentre Raikkonen è stato tenuto in pista. Arrivabene è chiaro: "Kimi non stava perdendo tantissimo, per cui credo che la decisione siastata giusta. Non si può vincere con due piloti"
Quando dopo ventidue giri Kimi Raikkonen è tornato in corsia box con le fiamme che uscivano dall’airscope delle sua Ferrari, la gara di Iceman è andata in archivio con uno zero in classifica. Ma sul suo Gp d’Australia le cattive notizie erano iniziate già prima.
All’undicesimo giro Kimi è transitato a 2”496 secondi dal leader Sebastian Vettel, e con un secondo di vantaggio su Nico Rosberg. La tornata successiva il tedesco della Mercedes ha provato l’undercut sul tandem ferrarista, ed una volta tornato in pista ha virtualmente superato Raikkonen già al termine del secondo settore. La Ferrari a quel punto è corsa ai ripari, chiamando subito in pit-lane Vettel e consentendo al tedesco di mantenere il comando della gara d’un soffio.
E Kimi? Era logico attendersi la sosta del finlandese al giro successivo, ma invece la Ferrari numero 7 è stata lasciata in pista fino al sedicesimo giro. Il risultato è stato che dopo il pit-stop Raikkonen è rientrato in pista ritrovandosi staccato da ben tredici secondi da Rosberg.
Maurizio Arrivabene ha dato la sua spiegazione:
“Kimi non stava perdendo tantissimo, quindi tenerlo fuori in quel momento era la cosa giusta da fare. Se lo avessimo chiamato prima forse avremmo compromesso la gara di Sebastian. Per cui credo che sia stata la decisione, giusta. Non puoi vincere con due piloti”.
Sulla bontà della decisione di dare la precedenza alla chiamata di Vettel non ci sono dubbi, ma è difficile comprendere i motivi per cui si sia messo Raikkonen nelle condizioni di perdere così tanto tempo nei confronti di Rosberg avendo di fatto una strategia (fino a quel momento) identica a quella del compagno di squadra.
“In quelle fasi è il team che decide – ha commentato Raikkonen – ed in quel frangente abbiamo perso subito una posizione su Rosberg”.
Gli sviluppi della strategia del muretto ferrarista sono stati poi azzerati dopo un solo giro, quando la bandiera rossa ha interrotto la corsa azzerando tutti i margini tra le monoposto.
Australian GP – “We knew that we were close”
Kimi undaunted despite retirement
Kimi Raikkonen: “Today we had a good first part of the race but at a certain point I lost power and had to retire. I don’t know exactly what happened, I don’t think that the problem was related to the engine because it was still running. It must have been something else. It’s a very unfortunate thing for the whole team. After the winter testing we had a rough idea that we should be pretty ok, Saturday was a funny day, with very odd conditions and circumstances, so we knew that the time difference in qualifying was not real. The car has been handling well, it’s fast and I had a good feeling but obviously we need to finish the race. We still have some work to do.”
Nico Rosberg wins wild 2016 F1 season-opening Australian Grand Prix
Nico Rosberg scored his fourth successive Formula 1 victory in an Australian Grand Prix marred by a shocking crash involving Fernando Alonso.
Rosberg, who won the final three races of last season in his Mercedes, finished eight seconds ahead of reigning champion team-mate Lewis Hamilton, with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel third.
The race, though, will be remembered for Alonso walking away from a lap-17 shunt in which his McLaren ran into the rear of Esteban Gutierrez’s Haas, slammed into the wall and then rolled violently through the gravel trap, forcing a red flag and a 20-minute stoppage.
Following the damp squib of qualifying, which will revert back to the old format from the Bahrain GP after an urgent meeting of team principals and managers prior to the start, the race overall was a shot in the arm for F1, despite the latest Mercedes one-two.
It started with Vettel majestically scything his way between front-row duo Hamilton and Rosberg to take the lead into the first corner.
Behind the four-time champion, Rosberg edged Hamilton wide at Turn 1, and doing so allowed Raikkonen to nip through on the inside to claim second.
Hamilton was relegated to sixth behind not only the Ferraris and Rosberg, but also Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen and Felipe Massa’s Williams.
It took four laps for Hamilton to overtake the Williams, and though soon up behind Verstappen he was unable to get close enough to pass, which allowed the leading trio to pull away by the first round of stops.
The tyre choice was fascinating as Vettel and Raikkonen remained on super-softs, while Rosberg switched to softs, with an adrift Hamilton on mediums as Mercedes tried to get him to the end of the race on a one-stop strategy.
The race was then transformed with the crash involving Alonso and Gutierrez, with all cars returning to the pits and many taking advantage of the red flag to change tyres.
Rosberg followed Hamilton onto mediums, but the Ferraris stuck with super-softs and Daniel Ricciardo and the Toro Rossos softs as they restarted behind the safety car in the order Vettel, Rosberg, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Verstappen, Carlos Sainz Jr, Hamilton and Massa.
Raikkonen soon retired from third, his Ferrari appearing to suffer a power-unit failure, leading to flames emerging from the engine cover as he stopped outside his garage.
Vettel could not pull away sufficiently on his super-softs and pitted on lap 35 of 57, handing the lead to Rosberg.
Hamilton was elevated to third by Vettel and the Toro Rossos stopping, then moved down the inside of the soon-to-pit Ricciardo for second with 16 laps to go, leaving him 10s behind his team-mate.
Rosberg managed to hold his ground over the closing laps to clinch his 15th win in F1.
A small mistake by Hamilton on lap 51 brought Vettel into play for second, but the champion kept his rival at bay to claim the runner-up spot, helped by the Ferrari locking up and running onto the grass at the penultimate corner with two laps to go.
Ricciardo claimed fourth, followed by Massa, with Romain Grosjean scoring points for Haas on its debut, the first new team to do so since Toyota with Mika Salo in 2002.
Grosjean benefited from being able to make his sole tyre change under the red flag, meaning he effectively completed the race without pitting.
Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg was seventh, followed by Valtteri Bottas for Williams, both unable to pass Grosjean despite following the Haas for half the race.
Sainz and Verstappen caught this group after their pitstops, and had a minor clash near the end that resulted in a spin for Verstappen.
Neither Renault scored on the works team’s return – Jolyon Palmer 11th and Kevin Magnussen 12th after a first-lap puncture.
For the second successive year in Melbourne Daniil Kvyat retired before the start, with the Russian’s Red Bull grinding to a halt just behind the safety car as the grid formed.
|4||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull/TAG Heuer||24.330s|
|7||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India/Mercedes||1m14.199s|
|9||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso/Ferrari||1m15.680s|
|10||Max Verstappen||Toro Rosso/Ferrari||1m16.833s|
|13||Sergio Perez||Force India/Mercedes||1m31.699s|
|14||Jenson Button||McLaren/Honda||1 Lap|
|15||Felipe Nasr||Sauber/Ferrari||1 Lap|
|16||Pascal Wehrlein||Manor/Mercedes||1 Lap|
|–||Daniil Kvyat||Red Bull/TAG Heuer||Not started|
|4||Red Bull/TAG Heuer||12|
Ferrari closer to Mercedes than it looks, say Raikkonen and Vettel
Kimi Raikkonen believes Ferrari’s deficit to Mercedes is no cause for alarm following the opening qualifying session of the new Formula 1 season in Australia.
The suggestion following pre-season testing was Ferrari would pose more of a threat to Mercedes this year.
But Raikkonen finished 1.196 seconds adrift of Lewis Hamilton, who clinched the 50th pole of his career, to start fourth on the grid at Melbourne’s Albert Park just behind team-mate Sebastian Vettel who was 0.838s down.
"There’s a difference obviously," said Raikkonen.
"I struggled a bit with the warm-up. On the last set [of tyres] it was slightly better, but I wouldn’t look too much into that time difference between us and Mercedes here.
"Obviously we would rather be in front, but it’s been quite a strange weekend so far, and for us it would be better to have slightly warmer conditions to get the tyres ready and working better.
"But the car feels pretty good, so I think it’s too early, and once we go to the next races and normal circuits I think we’ll see the real picture.
"Obviously they [Mercedes] are still very fast, but I don’t think you should be too worried."
Vettel also feels the gap was unrepresentative, particularly as the new qualifying format resulted in him opting to save a set of fresh super-softs for the race.
"I’ve said many times we have made a step forwards, which I think we have, and especially tomorrow we should be quite a bit closer," said Vettel.
"We expected them to be strong in qualifying, which they were. We had a bit of a rougher start to find the rhythm – certainly I had – which got better throughout qualifying.
"I’m very happy with the lap I had in the end, so we called it there and saved a set of tyres for tomorrow.
"Sure, we’re not on the front row, but we still have high hopes for the race and it’s going to be a long year.
"We know this car has a lot of potential, so in starting out third and fourth, locking out the second row, it’s a good achievement."
Nico Rosberg, who starts second behind team-mate Hamilton, was left surprised by the gap to Ferrari, although he appreciates there were extenuating circumstances.
"It [the gap] is not real because we had two runs [in Q3], they only had one run," said Rosberg.
"Sebastian was really compromised in his qualifying because he only had one tyre left in Q3, and he had to make that stick.
"So that’s a different situation to us as we were easy going and could just take some risks out there.
"So let’s be careful, but for sure the gap has surprised us today and we’re very happy about it at the moment.
"We all know Ferrari is always quicker in the race than in qualifying, so let’s hold our horses and see how it goes tomorrow."
Australian GP – “A good team effort”
Kimi happy with “improving” package
“It was not the ideal qualifying, but not too bad either. The car feels pretty good, and even if the Mercedes are faster than us I don’t think we should be too worried. I was struggling a bit with the front tires to get them working at the first three corners, but apart from that we had a very good package and it was getting better and better. Maybe for us it would have been better to have warmer conditions. The new qualifying format is obviously different, from a driver’s point of view it’s a slightly different feeling than it was before, but if you watch it on TV I think that there is a much bigger difference. I think today we did a good job as a team, this being the first time of the year. In Q3 we did have another set of tires available, but it wouldn’t have changed a lot to go out, so we decided to keep it for the race. So far it’s ok, it can always be better but we’ll see what we can do tomorrow.”