Mark Winterbottom starts on pole position for the first of four races at this weekend’s Rolex Formula One Australian Grand Prix.
Mark Winterbottom has plenty of time to rebound from a disappointing season-opener and challenge for the V8 Supercars Championship lead, despite admitting more work needs to be done.
The Pepsi Max Crew pilot rebounded from his steady but non-threatening opening weekend at the Clipsal 500 in Adelaide with immediate pace at this weekend’s Rolex Formula One Australian Grand Prix.
He starts on pole position for the first of four races at Albert Park following his 5-11-5 performance in Adelaide, which has started his season in seventh behind current leader James Courtney.
Chaz Mostert share the front row
Winterbottom and Pepsi team-mate Chaz Mostert share the front row of the grid with Courtney behind their Falcons in the HRT Commodore and a third Prodrive prepared Ford in David Reynolds next to him.
While Adelaide was not a disaster to start the year Winterbottom bemoaned a lack of speed on the Clipsal street circuit, but has not found that problem so far in Melbourne.
“Adelaide was tough for us on a tight track which was really hard for us to get on top of,” Winterbottom said.
“On a fast flowing track here and at Eastern Creek for the SuperTest it was a lot better than it was in Adelaide. We are working on it, that’s the thing. We used to have a car that was good on tight tracks and not slow tracks, now we have reversed it.
“We will work through that this weekend and hopefully have it sorted for Tasmania in a fortnight.”
I was pretty lucky after the accident, I felt pretty good the next day.
With Mostert only two hundredths of a second behind him in qualifying but seemingly light years ahead in Adelaide, Winterbottom thought they had already made strong ground.
“It’s the qualifying speed we are obviously trying to find,” he said.
“We went all of last year without a pole and Chaz broke that drought at Eastern Creek and now here we have done it again. The thing is if you qualify at the front you can race there.
“So far it’s good here and hopefully Tassie should be better again. Our race pace is reasonable but we are still not as quick as the other guys. In Adelaide I got into fifth at one stage and just stayed there, there was nothing I could do.
“You need to make it fast and make it last.”
Mostert is also exorcising his own demons of Adelaide when he was caught up in a late race crash with Jamie Whincup on the Sunday when trying to take the six-time Champion around the outside. While he recovered the car was a mess.
“After Clipsal it’s good to have that cleaner air and get some race pace,” Mostert said. “I was pretty lucky after the accident, I felt pretty good the next day. Now pretty much that whole weekend is out of my system. This is now event one for me.”
Clipsal 500 winner Courtney is simply continuing his great form, but glad he is doing it on two vastly different circuits in contrasting conditions.
Fifth in the order was Shane van Gisbergen, with Fabian Coulthard, Tim Slade, Whincup and Todd Kelly. Kelly’s appearance means four of the five manufacturers were represented, with the first of the Erebus racers Will Davison in 15th.
Others outside the top 10 include Craig Lowndes in 13th and Marcos Ambrose 20th.
Michael Caruso, whose Nissan has been suffering from electrical gremlins today, did not set a competitive lap after spending the majority of the session in the garage.
It was a disappointing result for the #23 driver, who claimed pole here last year.
While the 30-minute qualifying session determines the grid for tomorrow’s first race, races two and three have a progressive grid, and Sunday’s final race will have starting positions determined by combined points for the event.