Carlos ran consistently throughout the session, seventh fastest in Q1 and then eighth in the final two parts. Team-mate Max Verstappen was looking equally competitive and was a staggering fourth quickest in Q1. However, in Q2 he had what he described as “a big moment” at Turn 4 and that was enough to drop him down to twelfth, bringing his day’s work to a close. But nothing seems to faze the calm Dutch kid, whose stated aim is to make it into the points tomorrow evening. Sainz shares the fourth row of the grid with Daniel Ricciardo in the Red Bull, while Verstappen is on the outside of row 6 alongside Felipe Nasr’s Sauber.
During winter testing, one of the topics for discussion was whether we had seen the full potential of the reigning champions, Mercedes. Well, clearly we had not, because today Lewis Hamilton took pole position, metaphorically with one arm resting outside the window: not only was the Englishman over half a second quicker than team-mate Nico Rosberg, he was a massive one and a half seconds faster than third placed Felipe Massa in the Williams. Ferrari’s winter form seems real enough, as Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen were fourth and fifth, while Valtteri Bottas, who was complaining of a painful back, completed the top six for Williams.
“A bit of an adventure” is how Carlos described his prospects for the Grand Prix and that phrase can probably be applied to even the most experienced drivers, as the opening round of the season is always an unpredictable affair. Albert Park is one of those tracks where the first corner often produces plenty of drama and a Safety Car period is highly likely, be it with the car on track or with the new Virtual Safety Car procedure – look out for the flashing “VSC” boards around the track.
The high probability of a Safety Car means that, although this circuit is very demanding on the fuel consumption front, a few slow laps usually allows everyone to run without too many worries on this front. As for the tyres, you could do this race on a single stop, but two is the most likely scenario. Let the adventure begin.