Vettel confident in ability to challenge Mercedes

F1i 25/03/2017
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Sebastian Vettel

Sebastian Vettel will line up alongside Lewis Hamilton on the front row of the Australian Grand Prix, conceding 0.268s to the Mercedes driver in Saturday’s qualifying session.

Like all drivers involved in Q3, Vettel set his fastest lasp on the ultra-soft compound, the favoured tyre here in Melbourne

Compared to last year’s event at Albert park, the gap between the two men on the front row has been meaningfully reduced, proving the level of  Ferrari’s progress this year.

“I think we have a good car, we’re working well as a team and things are improving,” Vettel said.

“We had a mixed day yesterday but the confidence in the car was there from testing and I think we showed it again today.”

As soon as Vettel concluded his ultimate qualifying run, Ferrari boss Maurizio Arrivabene left the pit walk with a body language that appeared to express disappointment with Vettel’s performance.

But while the German driver was indeed not all that satisfied with his last run, he admitted the pole position was also out of reach.

“In the end, I was not entirely happy with my lap. Pretty happy in the end but so much with the opening of the lap where we lost a bit too much, but I think Lewis did a very good lap so.

“I would have loved to but I don’t think pole was up for grabs,” Vettel added.

The four-time world champion is confident however of mounting a challenge on Sunday, reiterating his belief that team and car have come a long way over the past year year.

“Tomorrow I think we can do something in the race. The car feels good, we’ve improved it so the pace should be much better than it was yesterday.

“It’s been a big winter for us, with a lot of change we’ve gone through as a team in the last twelve months, and for the better. I think the team is getting stronger

“Of course everybody has been pushing very hard. It’s not so easy to come, it’s a long journey to get to Australia but I think people are fired up and we are motivated for tomorrow. ”

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Hamilton thanks team for 'fantastic' pole position

F1i 25/03/2017
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Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton praised the hard work put in by the Mercedes team over the winter for helping him clinch the first pole position of 2017.

Hamilton was nearly three tenths of a second clear of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in qualifying in Melbourne on Saturday.

“It’s been a fantastic weekend so far,” said the three-time world champion.

“It’s quite amazing to come here for I think it’s the 11th time. It feels like it was only yesterday that I cam in and had my first race here in 2007. Such a great journey.

“I’m just incredibly proud of my team. This rule change has been huge and such a massive challenge for everyone. The guys have just worked so hard to make this car what it is today.”

While happy with how qualifying had gone, Hamilton made it clear that what really mattered is how things went on race day.

“Tomorrow is about putting all the work that’s gone on over the winter. All the work that’s gone through testing and everything, and through this whole weekend, and really put it to work tomorrow.

“I’ll make sure I get a good night’s sleep and come back tomorrow stronger than ever,” he added.

While the margin between himself and the rest of the field looked comfortable, Hamilton predicted a hard-fought Australian Grand Prix on Sunday.

“Obviously it’s close between us all. As you can see there’s going to be a tight race this year I think.”

And Hamilton was quick to congratulate his new team mate Valtteri Bottas. The Finn is taking part in his first race weekend for Mercedes since taking over the seat from Nico Rosberg.

“Valtteri did a fantastic job, being that it’s his first qualifying session with the team, he’s done a great job. It’s great for us at Mercedes.”

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IN PICS: Hamilton secures Aus GP pole

Sport360 staff 25/03/2017

Triple world champion Lewis Hamilton will start off the pole in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix after winning qualifying on Saturday.

Hamilton in a Mercedes clocked a record lap of one minute 22.188 seconds to take his 62nd career pole and sixth in Australia into Sunday’s race in Melbourne.

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was second with Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas third.

Hamilton has been on pole in Melbourne in each of the last four seasons, and in five out the last six Australian GPs.

“It’s been a fantastic weekend so far. I’m incredibly proud of my team,” Hamilton said.

“Valtteri did a great job and it’s great for us as Mercedes. It’s going to be a tight race.

“Tomorrow is about putting all the work together and making sure I come back stronger than ever.”

He was pushed in the final Q3 stage first by Bottas and then by Vettel before clinching the fastest lap.

“I lost a bit in turn one and in turn nine I tried a bit too much, but I don’t think it would have been enough,” said Vettel, who claimed Ferrari’s first front row since 2015 in knocking Bottas out of second place.

Hamilton’s pole time was 1.7 seconds quicker than his qualifying time last year.

“Third position is not ideal,” Bottas said.

“In general I’m not happy for the result. But I’m proud of what the team has done.

“I only saw a very small part of the preparation and it’s nice to see the work has pulled off and we’re fighting at the front.”

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