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Melbourne Grand Prix: Daniel Ricciardo eclipses Sebastian Vettel in qualifying

Lewis Hamilton (C) celebrates taking pole position, flanked by Nico Rosberg and Daniel Ricciardo.

Lewis Hamilton (C) celebrates taking pole position, flanked by Nico Rosberg and Daniel Ricciardo. Photo: Reuters

Australian Daniel Ricciardo eclipsed his world champion teammate Sebastian Vettel in a wet and windy qualifying session at Albert Park, but could not quite make it a dream debut for his Red Bull Racing career and will start from the second spot on the grid for Sunday's Australian Grand Prix.

Mercedes' former world champion Lewis Hamilton posted a fractionally faster time in the dying seconds of the final third qualifying session to snare pole position.

The Briton had consistently been fast in the practice sessions on Friday and Saturday, and he and his Mercedes teammate, Nico Rosberg, were strongly fancied to make it a clean sweep in qualifying.

But Ricciardo made a dramatic intervention in the closing stages of an hour-long session made unpredictable by changeable conditions.

Ricciardo, who graduated to the Red Bull team this year after serving his F1 apprenticeship in the energy drink giant's Toro Rosso junior squad, looked on course to land a pole position in his first start for the world championship-winning team, having gone to the top of the list in the last minute of the session.

But Hamilton had the final run and managed to pull out a fractionally faster lap, his 1.44.231 seconds just 0.3 seconds faster than Ricciardo's 1.44.548.

It was good enough for the Australian to split the two Silver Arrows racers, and will see him start 11 places higher on the grid than world champion Vettel, who sensationally failed to make the final top 10 run off and will start from 13th position.

There was also a tremendous debut from Danish youngster Kevin Magnussen who, like Ricciardo, outshone his far better credentialled teammate Jenson Button.

Magnussen, driving in his first F1 race, was fourth fastest in his McLaren, while Button, like Vettel, failed to make the final phase of qualifying.

His 1.45.745 seconds was quick enough to see off the challenge of another former world champion, Fernando Alonso, in the quickest Ferrari, while the Toro Rosso of Jean Eric Vergne was sixth fastest.

Ricciardo said the wet conditions probably helped him get as close to the Mercedes duo as he did.

''I have exceeded my expectations. If it was a dry qualifying we were expecting Lewis and Nico to take the front. I think their pace in the dry was pretty impressive,'' he said. ''There was not too much calculating going on in my head; it was just drive and adapt to the conditions.''

Hamilton described the weekend so far - the first with new cars and new regulations - as ''interesting'', the variable weather conditions adding another layer of complexity.

''These new cars are a lot harder to drive in the wet. It was a serious task today,'' he said.

Rosberg added: ''I don't think we did much wrong - all in all it was a good qualifying session. I am pleased with third, I know we have a good race car. It will be a completely different story [in the race].''

Few would have bet on Vettel being the slowest of the Red Bull/Toro Rosso quartet in qualifying, but that's how it turned out as the Toro Rosso team's Russian rookie Danni Kvyat qualified in eighth position, a result belying some pre-season expectations that the Renault-powered racers would be off the pace compared with the Mercedes and Ferrari-powered cars.

Vettel, who has won the past four world championships, has been a dominant figure in qualifying during that period and sits third in the all-time list of pole sitters, having been fastest 45 times.

But the wet and greasy Albert Park circuit proved a little too challenging for the 26-year-old in the gathering gloom of Saturday evening and he will start from the seventh row of the grid.

There is a chance of rain and changeable weather conditions for the race, but fuel consumption and the reliability of the new cars will be major issues in determining the outcome of the 19th world championship grand prix to be run in Melbourne.

2 comments so far

  • Kevin Magnussen is better.......

    Commenter
    outthere
    Location
    melbourne
    Date and time
    March 16, 2014, 8:48PM
    • DR seems okay but Kevin MAGNUSSEN is amazing......

      Commenter
      The Engineer
      Location
      Right here in town
      Date and time
      March 16, 2014, 8:57PM

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