F1

Australian GP: McLaren Mercedes qualifying report

HEIKKI KOVALAINEN (14th) P3 programme The afternoon's final practice session was spent fine-tuning set-up ahead of qualifying. Heikki completed two timed runs (5 laps/1m27.284s; 3 laps/1m26.652s) to finish the session 11th overall. He noted ...

HEIKKI KOVALAINEN (14th)

P3 programme

The afternoon's final practice session was spent fine-tuning set-up ahead of qualifying. Heikki completed two timed runs (5 laps/1m27.284s; 3 laps/1m26.652s) to finish the session 11th overall. He noted an improvement to the car's overall pace and handling balance.

Qualifying

In contrast to Lewis, Heikki began the Q1 session on Bridgestone primes, posting a four-lap run (1m27.016s best) before switching to the option. Despite admitting his lap was not perfect, he set a 13th-fastest 1m26.184s to move comfortably into Q2. The second session was less productive: Heikki set a 1m25.726s on the option tyre which would only line him up 14th. "The car's overall balance was good," he said, "we just don't have enough grip at the moment to make the best use of it. The team has worked so hard, and we have made progress over the past few weeks so it gives us all a lot of hope that we will get back to the front before too long."

LEWIS HAMILTON (15th)

P3 programme

Two runs for Lewis (4 laps/1m27.923s; 4 laps/1m27.812s) as his engineers worked to improve the set-up. The session was spent productively improving overall balance, ironing out stability issues before switching attention to a final run (2 laps/1m26.714s) on the option. He finished in 12th.

Qualifying

Opting for two single-lap runs on options, Lewis set a decent 1m26.454s to finish the Q1 session 15th fastest. However, the final run to improve his time resulted in the car suffering a sudden loss of drive, leaving Lewis to coast back to the pits. "Something broke on the rear of my car on my second flying lap in Q1," Lewis explained. "I just lost all drive in the gearbox and couldn't continue. The team will look at the problem tonight and I'm determined to drive an attacking race -- we'll have some fun from 15th tomorrow. My congratulations to Jenson and everyone at Brawn GP -- they have done a fantastic job all weekend and have a lot to look forward to tomorrow."

MARTIN WHITMARSH -- team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes

"A gearbox problem for Lewis in Q1 -- probably a broken dog ring but we'll have to investigate it to know for sure -- prevented him from setting as quick a time as he might otherwise have been able to, but at least he got through to Q2 even if he was unable to take part in it. Heikki's first quick lap in Q2 was solid - but his next fast lap was quicker in sectors one and two but unfortunately not quicker in sector three. He therefore missed out on getting through to Q3 -- by less than half a second.

"Both drivers did a good job, though, in circumstances that were difficult for us all. The reality is that we've made progress in the past couple of weeks, but clearly not enough. There's more to come, though, and everyone at Woking, Brixworth and Stuttgart is working as hard as they can to turn things around in the shortest time possible."

NORBERT HAUG -- vice-president, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport

"Heikki did a solid job and made best use of the pace offered by the car. It's a shame that Lewis suffered a gearbox problem, which should not happen when he was on his best lap so far -- there was not such a problem during more than 7000 km of testing. Our speed was obviously not great, however Kimi and Nick -- who were also both running KERS -- were respectively 0.35s and 0.25s ahead of us, and Fernando is not more than 0.15s away. But of course, we have to continue to improve dramatically. Congratulations to Brawn GP for a superb debut. We are especially happy that our Mercedes-Benz engine powers the whole front row."

-credit: mclaren

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