Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Albert Park, 2019

Eight poles, two wins: Will Hamilton convert this time?

2019 Australian Grand Prix pre-race analysis

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Pole position for the Australian Grand Prix is no guarantee of victory. Lewis Hamilton#s career statistics make that quite obvious.

Sunday’s race will be the eighth time he’s started from pole position at Albert Park. But of those seven previous starts at the sharp end, he’s only converted two into victory.

What happened in the others? In 2012 and 2016 he was beaten to turn one by team mate who started alongside – Jenson Button and Nico Rosberg respectively. There’s a ray of hope for Valtteri Bottas, who was bumped back to second on the grid by Hamilton in the dying seconds of Q3.

In 2014 his power unit let him down. And in the last two seasons he finished second to Sebastian Vettel. On both occasions the Ferrari driver jumped him in the pits, though the last occasion was fortuitous as Mercedes had miscalculated how close behind Vettel Hamilton needed to be during a Virtual Safety Car period, allowing the Ferrari driver to take advantage.

So if he makes it to turn one ahead and Mercedes avoid another of their periodic tactical screw-ups, Hamilton will probably be home free. Given Mercedes’ pace advantage, the chance of a threat emerging from behind seem slim, particularly as overtaking is difficult on this configuration. Last year’s race saw a total of 15 passes.

Nonetheless Albert Park can produce lively races – it’s bumpy, narrow and there’s little run-off. Like last year, an ill-timed Safety Car could be the biggest threat to the world champion’s hopes of scoring his first win at this track since 2015.

Start, Melbourne, 2012
Button beat Hamilton to turn one seven years ago…
Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Albert Park, 2018
…last year Vettel got lucky

[mpuzweeler01]It looks like being a fight for third place behind the Mercedes drivers. From fourth on the grid, Max Verstappen is teed up nicely to take a shot at Vettel on the inside of turn one, particularly if the Mercedes drivers use a little formation driving to pin the Ferrari driver in, or edge him onto the grass at turn two.

Haas lead the midfielders on the grid and will be painfully aware of how they squandered a big points haul at this race 12 months ago. Guenther Steiner has said that was the race which cost them fourth place in the championship, so Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen will be out to ensure they bank a decent haul at the start of the season. Particularly as F1’s smallest team has tended not to develop its car as quickly as its rials – now is the time to make hay.

Behind them is the shock of qualifying, Lando Norris, eighth in his McLaren and 10 places ahead of his team mate, who dropped out in Q1 when he was held up by Robert Kubica. Norris’s starts were rather variable in Formula 2 last year, though that was partly down to problems with the equipment, and he’s had plenty of opportunities to practice ahead of his debut.

But as Norris and the likes of George Russell and Alexander Albon are about to discover, doing it in practice and doing it for real surrounded by 19 other F1 cars heading into a bumpy braking zone is a different matter.

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The performance shown by the cars so far indicates that, at this track at least, the prediction that the midfield will be closer to the front-runners has been borne out. McLaren, Haas, Racing Point, Toro Rosso and Alfa Romeo have gained 0.6-1.6 seconds per lap more than Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull and Renault have at this track since last year.

Romain Grosjean, Haas, Albert Park, 2019
Haas are leading the midfield
This indicates we will see the field spread out at a slower rate than last year. This will have a knock-on effect on strategy, as those near the front needs gaps behind to drop into to make their pit stops.

Last year the difficulty of overtaking had a significant bearing on strategy as teams were desperate to avoid surrendering track position. The aerodynamic changes for this year are intended to address that, but don’t expect it to make a great difference at Albert Park. “This is a track where even if you were running go-karts around it there wouldn’t be overtaking,” remarked Kevin Magnussen on Thursday. If we at least see cars running closer together than last year, that will be an encouraging sign for the season ahead.

The final key change for this race is the bonus point on offer for the driver who sets fastest lap. The prevailing view among drivers is this is most likely to be scored by whichever driver among the front-runners has enough of a gap behind them to make a pit stop late in the race, emerge on a fresh set of tyres and bang in a flying lap.

On Thursday Kubica suggested we could see a “domino” effect of one driver pitting, creating a gap for another driver ahead to make a pit stop. But this will only happen if the first driver decides to pit earlier than the last possible opportunity – i.e. the penultimate lap of the race – and it’s not obvious why they might choose to do that, as they wouldn’t want to give a driver ahead a chance to pit.

A more complex scenario would be if a late Safety Car period gives several drivers the chance to make late pit stops for tyres. But whether ‘the show’ would be better served by those drivers potentially trying to set fastest lap instead of racing each other position remains to be seen. There’s a good chance we could get our first real-world example on Sunday.

Quotes: Dieter Rencken

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Qualifying times in full

Driver Car Q1

Q2 (vs Q1)

Q3 (vs Q2)
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1’22.043 1’21.014 (-1.029) 1’20.486 (-0.528)
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1’22.367 1’21.193 (-1.174) 1’20.598 (-0.595)
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1’22.885 1’21.912 (-0.973) 1’21.190 (-0.722)
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1’22.876 1’21.678 (-1.198) 1’21.320 (-0.358)
5 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1’22.017 1’21.739 (-0.278) 1’21.442 (-0.297)
6 Romain Grosjean Haas 1’22.959 1’21.870 (-1.089) 1’21.826 (-0.044)
7 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1’22.519 1’22.221 (-0.298) 1’22.099 (-0.122)
8 Lando Norris McLaren 1’22.702 1’22.423 (-0.279) 1’22.304 (-0.119)
9 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo 1’22.966 1’22.349 (-0.617) 1’22.314 (-0.035)
10 Sergio Perez Racing Point 1’22.908 1’22.532 (-0.376) 1’22.781 (+0.249)
11 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1’22.540 1’22.562 (+0.022)
12 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 1’22.921 1’22.570 (-0.351)
13 Alexander Albon Toro Rosso 1’22.757 1’22.636 (-0.121)
14 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo 1’22.431 1’22.714 (+0.283)
15 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1’22.511 1’22.774 (+0.263)
16 Lance Stroll Racing Point 1’23.017
17 Pierre Gasly Red Bull 1’23.020
18 Carlos Sainz Jnr McLaren 1’23.084
19 George Russell Williams 1’24.360
20 Robert Kubica Williams 1’26.067

Sector times

Driver Sector 1 Sector 2 Sector 3
Lewis Hamilton 26.613 (1) 21.962 (2) 31.911 (1)
Valtteri Bottas 26.653 (2) 21.877 (1) 31.962 (2)
Sebastian Vettel 26.936 (4) 22.172 (3) 32.034 (3)
Max Verstappen 26.815 (3) 22.252 (6) 32.239 (5)
Charles Leclerc 26.949 (5) 22.177 (4) 32.236 (4)
Romain Grosjean 27.100 (6) 22.238 (5) 32.406 (7)
Kevin Magnussen 27.174 (7) 22.322 (8) 32.403 (6)
Lando Norris 27.246 (9) 22.332 (10) 32.606 (10)
Kimi Raikkonen 27.195 (8) 22.409 (13) 32.574 (8)
Sergio Perez 27.307 (10) 22.485 (15) 32.693 (12)
Nico Hulkenberg 27.366 (11) 22.327 (9) 32.681 (11)
Daniel Ricciardo 27.448 (14) 22.449 (14) 32.597 (9)
Alexander Albon 27.410 (13) 22.333 (11) 32.858 (16)
Antonio Giovinazzi 27.450 (15) 22.273 (7) 32.705 (14)
Daniil Kvyat 27.396 (12) 22.406 (12) 32.697 (13)
Lance Stroll 27.495 (16) 22.525 (16) 32.907 (17)
Pierre Gasly 27.667 (18) 22.547 (17) 32.806 (15)
Carlos Sainz Jnr 27.564 (17) 22.559 (18) 32.961 (18)
George Russell 27.998 (19) 22.872 (19) 33.490 (19)
Robert Kubica 28.210 (20) 23.279 (20) 33.908 (20)

Speed trap

Pos Driver Car Engine Speed (kph/mph) Gap
1 Sergio Perez Racing Point Mercedes 322.5 (200.4)
2 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Ferrari 322.4 (200.3) -0.1
3 Alexander Albon Toro Rosso Honda 322.3 (200.3) -0.2
4 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso Honda 321.3 (199.6) -1.2
5 Carlos Sainz Jnr McLaren Renault 320.8 (199.3) -1.7
6 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Ferrari 320.8 (199.3) -1.7
7 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes Mercedes 320.0 (198.8) -2.5
8 Lance Stroll Racing Point Mercedes 319.7 (198.7) -2.8
9 Lando Norris McLaren Renault 319.6 (198.6) -2.9
10 Nico Hulkenberg Renault Renault 319.3 (198.4) -3.2
11 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes Mercedes 319.0 (198.2) -3.5
12 Max Verstappen Red Bull Honda 317.8 (197.5) -4.7
13 Charles Leclerc Ferrari Ferrari 317.7 (197.4) -4.8
14 Romain Grosjean Haas Ferrari 316.5 (196.7) -6.0
15 Daniel Ricciardo Renault Renault 316.4 (196.6) -6.1
16 Pierre Gasly Red Bull Honda 316.1 (196.4) -6.4
17 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 316.0 (196.4) -6.5
18 George Russell Williams Mercedes 316.0 (196.4) -6.5
19 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari Ferrari 315.9 (196.3) -6.6
20 Robert Kubica Williams Mercedes 314.6 (195.5) -7.9

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Over to you

Who will win the first race of 2019? Share your views on the Australian Grand Prix in the comments.

2019 Australian Grand Prix

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    Keith Collantine
    Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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    18 comments on “Eight poles, two wins: Will Hamilton convert this time?”

    1. As long as the looming first corner collision between Max and Leclerc doesn’t impact Lewis, barring mechanical issues he’s home free and clear.

      1. Hmmm, you think it will be Verstappen and Leclerc?
        I was thinking Verstappen will be aiming at Vettel… but I wouldn’t discard Leclerc meeting with Haases… or even – who knows how good Norris starts…

        1. Seb going to let Max pushing Valtteri and sneak back into 3rd place. He would then control the pace so Valtteri and Charles had close fight while watching Max ruin Lewis tyres. But Seb could not win this because Red Bull strange tyre strategy on Pierre would help Max more at half way through the race.

          In the end it would be 26 points race for Charles.

    2. Panagiotis Papatheodorou (@panagiotism-papatheodorou)
      16th March 2019, 19:08

      I have a feeling he will, but I think Seb will finish second. The front wings are wider this year so I wouldn’t call out some carnage in the start, especially when you have Max, KMag and Grosjean so close together.

      1. Yeah that’s the trio I’m looking on to spice up the start

        1. Panagiotis Papatheodorou (@panagiotism-papatheodorou)
          16th March 2019, 19:34

          Lando starts 8th and he isn’t very experienced, is he? I am pumped man, rewatched qualifying because of the F1 drought.

    3. Adam (@rocketpanda)
      16th March 2019, 19:17

      I’m almost certain he’ll win relatively comfortably. I’d be happy to be wrong though.

      There’s a lot threatening a good race to be honest. Bottas has every chance of getting past him at the start and seems pretty on it, and maybe the race pace of the Ferrari’s and Verstappen might overhaul him. It’ll be interesting especially to see the full power of the Red Bull-Honda in race trim and obviously having Vettel, Verstappen, Leclerc & Grosjean so close could mean collisions. Then you got to consider a saftey car’s fairly likely to mess up a victory… so there’s a possibility of a fascinating race.

      That said… I fairly expect Hamilton & Bottas to break away from the chasing pack and Hamilton to maintain about a 4 second gap to Bottas, and win with an unchallenged 1-2.

    4. With the Pinocchio brothers locking out the front row, it’s hard to look past a Mercedes 1-2.

    5. Interesting how if Giovinazzi did his Q1 lap in Q2, he’d have made it into Q3, but instead, he starts 14th…

      1. @hugh11
        Or, seen from a different angle: It’s fascinating how close the Sauber (or Alfa, whatevs) duo came to producing a completely different result. Räikkönen came tantalisingly close to being eliminated in Q1 (he made it through in 15th place with just 0.051 seconds to spare, behind him were Gasly and Sainz, who were clearly faster than that), and Giovinazzi pieced together a lap time that would’ve been fast enough for Q3 (in fact, it was just 0.117 seconds slower than Räikkönen’s best effort, despite having been set no less than 43 minutes earlier, which can make a huge difference in terms of track evolution …). In other words, Giovinazzi was probably less than a car’s length away from being Sauber’s hero, but then he didn’t perform when it counted the most, and suddenly he’s the ‘slow’ one watching his team mate having fun in Q3.

        The real story here is how incredibly tight the midfield has become. Everyone bar Williams seems to be able to fight for Q3, and everyone bar Mercedes and Ferrari is just one mistake away from being eliminated in Q1. Yes, even Red Bull aren’t safe, as Gasly’s example shows. Two unobstructed flying attempts just weren’t enough in his case. In other words: Hero or zero, it’s all in the drivers’ hands (at least for 12-14 of them). Forget the frontrunners, they’re predictable and plain boring. The midfield is where F1’s heart is beating.

    6. Robert McKay
      16th March 2019, 20:30

      The interesting bit of this Grand Prix will be the Formula 1.5 race. Not convinced the race at the front will be very interesting, but stranger things have happened.

    7. My prediction based on nothing at all is for a first lap safety car. Neither Williams finishing the race. Hamilton wins as well as getting fastest lap after backing everyone up the last 10 laps of the race.

      1. I just vomited a little

    8. MaliceCooper
      16th March 2019, 21:18

      Scything through the first lap chaos will be Alex Albon, who holds off Bottas in the final laps to take an amazing win for STR :-)

    9. Unless Vettel (or Verstappen) makes a miraculous start like 2016, it’ll be piece of cake for Lewis. I honestly expect a Grand Chelem. He started on fire.

    10. Well, hopefully Hamilton crashes or blows up so we can get an entertaining race.

    11. Not this time either. One way or another, he’s going to fail at that yet again around this circuit.

    Comments are closed.