A bit of relief for all the fans flocked to witness the qualifying as the weather forecast predicted dry one-hour shootout for pole. Lotus, Ferrari and Sauber seemingly looked promising in the free practice sessions but Mclaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh played down the lack of pace and insisted there was more of it coming. The Finn, Raikkonen, was most of the crowds’ favourite, as he had already won there four times including his last victory in 2009. So the long await was finally over and the tussle for grid got underway.
Out of the 24 competing, Webber and Rosberg incurred a statutory grid 5-place drop for changing gearboxes. Webber was less concerned as if he knew it was coming unlike Rosberg who suffered a transmission failure after completing only five laps in FP3. Charles pic took to the track first for Marussia. The reinvigorated Perez headed out to set a competitive time and went quickest of all. Bruno Senna got it all wrong into La Source and went wide to ruin his lap while Massa did the same on exit of Turn 13 narrowly missing the gravel trap. Schumacher had been a victim of traffic and was down at the bottom in 15th, in scare of missing out to the next round.
Lewis Hamilton, despite making mistake in the middle sector, held on to second with Alonso leading the pack. Both Mclarens were on a different setup as Lewis opted for a high downforce one to get maximum out of middle twisty sector. Jenson again reported to be having a massive understeer – more than anything from morning. Nonetheless, Button headed the timings from Alonso, Raikkonen, Hamilton and Perez. Mercedes couldn’t get Michael out of the drop-zone and Rosberg was just hanging on in 17th.
Maldonado bolted new set of medium compound tyres to go all the way up to top. Schumacher somehow mastered his Mercedes to 10th but team-mate Rosberg was in all sorts of bother. When the flag fell and signaled the end, Rosberg didn’t cross the line to make his final flying lap but Ricciardo rushed into sixth to save himself for q2. Further adding up to his penalty, only last row start for the German come Sunday. Maldonado kept his top slot until the session got to a closure.
ELIMINATED: 18) Nico Rosberg 19) Heikki Kovalainen 20) Vitaly Petrov 21) Timo Glock 22) Pedro de la Rosa 23) Charles Pic 24) Narain Karthikeyan
Thanks to Rosberg, Grosjean sneaked into q2 while lying in 17th as HRT played its part by hampering him in the final flying lap. Perez out on the track first and clocked a time eight tenths quicker than fastest q1 time with Kobayashi, Resta and Vergne followed up. Alonso did a perfect lap to top the leaderboard but only to be displaced by Hamilton and then Raikkonen negotiated a quick middle sector to go fastest by one tenths of Hamilton.
Jenson outpaced the rest with a 1:47.654 to go quickest. Lotus made a strategic call to save another run thereby saving a new set of rubber for Kimi. After a good showing, Vergne was knocked out of q2. Maldonado kept his composure to move the reigning champion Vettel out of 10th. Disappointment for Schuey as he was only 13th fastest overall. Resta sneaked into q3 after pulling out a good lap for 10th spot.
ELIMINATED: 11) Sebastian Vettel 12) Nico Hulkenberg 13) Michael Schumacher 14) Felipe Massa 15) Jean-Eric Vergne 16) Daniel Ricciardo 17) Bruno Senna
Jenson Button finished quickest ahead of Sergio Perez, Kimi Raikkonen, Mark Webber, Lewis Hamilton, Kamui Kobayashi, Fernando Alonso, Romain Grosjean, Paul di Resta and Pastor Maldonado.
In the final 10 minute decider, Mark Webber, Fernando Alonso, and the Saubers of Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez decided to wait and probably for a single run. Raikkonen set the time to beat only to be thrown away by Button whose time was a bit fractionally slower than his q2 time. Kobayashi put on a stunning lap to move ahead into P2. As if that wasn’t enough, Jenson lapped even quicker to remain on pole at the end ahead of Kamui.
Maldonado was impressive in his last run to line-up on p3. A moment to celebrate for Jenson as he notched up his first pole since Monaco GP of 2009 on his championship winning year. Though Button won with Mclaren in his second ever race for them in Australia, it took his this long to claim pole position. What an incredible performance!
TOP 10: Button, Kobayashi, Maldonado, Raikkonen, Perez, Alonso, Webber, Hamilton, Grosjean and Resta.
PENALTIES: Webber and Rosberg – 5 place (gearbox), Maldonado – 3 place (impeding Hulkenberg), Schumacher – €2500 ( wrongly using pit entry)