Daniel and Max up the pace

Max and Daniel qualified fourth and fifth respectively for Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix, with Max just four hundredths of a second off the pace of third on the grid Sebastian Vettel as Daniel claimed fifth at Melbourne’s Albert Park Circuit.

Daniel finished 0.273 behind his team-mate, but the local hero is set to start from eighth place on the grid after taking a three-place penalty applied for a red flag regulations infraction in P2.

Neither car struggled in Q1 with Max making light work of the session with a opening-run time of 1:23.483 that eventually left him fourth while Daniel progressed in P5 with a time of 1:23.494. Both drivers then retreated to the garage while the rest of the session played out. At the top of the order Hamilton went quickest ahead of Raikkonen and Vettel.

It looked like Toro Rosso's Brendon Hartley was going to prop up the table, as he sat in P20 ahead of the final runs, but the New Zealander rose to the challenge and put in a superb final flyer to climb up the order. However, his time of 1:24.532 was only good for P16, and he narrowly missed out on a Q2 berth by just 0.029s, as Force India's Esteban Ocon scraped through in P15.

Eliminated behind Hartley were the Saubers of Marcus Ericsson and Charles Leclerc in P17 and P18 respectively, while Williams' Sergey Sirotkin went out in P19 ahead of the second Toro Rosso of Pierre Gasly who had an off on his final run.

 2018 Australian Grand Prix Quali Stats:

  • Fourth is Max's best qualifying result in Australia. He was fifth in 2017 and 2016 and started 11th in 2015.
  • Max finished the race where he started in last year to take a career best Melbourne result of P5.
  • This will be the second time Daniel starts his home race from P8. The last time was in 2016. His best grid spot is P2, in 2014.

MORE: Daniel's homecoming Spotify playlist

In Q2 both Red Bulls took the decision to run only with the supersoft tyres and once again both made it through to Q3 without being challenged. Setting their best Q2 times on the red-banded Pirellis means that both will start the race on that tyre, which should allow the pair to run longer tomorrow and forge ahead of those around them stop to shed starting ultrasofts. It should also allow them to gain positional advantage on a circuit where overtaking is difficult.

In Q2 time Vettel claimed top spot, with the Ferrari driving rising to P1 with a time of 1:21.944. That put him a tenth clear of Hamilton, while Valtteri Bottas took third ahead of Max and Daniel. Alonso was the main driver to miss out. Ahead of the final runs the Spaniard sat in P7, but once the final times came in the McLaren driver had been edged out to P11, some 1500ths of a second behind 10th-placed Nico Hulkenberg of Renault. Alonso's McLaren team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne was meanwhile eliminated in P11 ahead of Force India's Sergio Perez, Stroll and Ocon.

And so to Q3 where there was immediate drama. Bottas lost control of his Mercedes into Turn 2 and slid off on the exit, hitting the wall hard and causing huge damage to his car. The red flags immediately came out.
When the action resumed Hamilton led a close set of opening run times. However, in the final runs the Mercedes driver stretched away to beat Raikkonen by 0.664s, with Vettel 0.010 behind.

The Red Bulls took the fight to Ferrari, however, with Max finishing just 0.041 behind Vettel, as the promising performance from testing in Barcelona was transferred to a competitive session in Melbourne.