Badger’s team-by-team look at today’s qualifying session from Albert Park. Form-wise, 2011 is shaping up to be a continuation of 2010.

Red Bull

Mighty from the word go. Vettel seemed capable of switching it on when he fancied and producing laps of far greater pace than his rivals, with only team-mate Mark Webber getting genuinely close to the world champion early on. Seb’s first fast lap in Q3 was close-to a second quicker than anyone else’s, despite the German locking up through the penultimate corner, with Lewis Hamilton ending up over second seven-tenths adrift. Webber will be disappointed to have been bumped back to the second row and will have to quickly dispatch Lewis if he’s to take the battle to his team-mate in the race. Ultimately this one – the world championship, that is – is now Seb’s to lose.

McLaren

‘McLaren build rubbish car’ was one of the stories of the winter but, not for the first time, we were duped. Fast in Q1, fast in Q2, the Woking-based team seemed to pose the greatest threat to Red Bull throughout the session, culminating in Lewis Hamilton producing a mega final lap to split the Red Bulls – an unthinkable achievement before F1 arrived in Melbourne. Jenson Button also did a solid job to take fourth on the grid. Though by no means the favourites they are in the hunt for victory. Good job!

Ferrari

Surprisingly troubled stuff for the Scuderia. Felipe Massa was forced to deliver a quick lap late in Q1 to put himself through and generally looked all at sea. He was unable to get near double world champion team-mate Fernando Alonso, who was doing his all to bridge the gap to the Red Bulls. Ultimately it was a poor showing from the Italian team, with Alonso salvaging fifth and Massa down in eighth. You have to wonder how committed to the task Felipe is.

Mercedes

Michael Schumacher beings 2011 where he left off last year, just missing out on Q3. He set the 11th fastest lap of the second session and looks like repeating the midfield misery of 2010. Nico Rosberg meanwhile got the most out of his car to seal seventh on the grid, another strong effort from the 25-year-old. Absolutely no change here, then.

Renault

A tale of two extremes. Nick ‘Mr. Reliable’ Heidfeld was caught out in Q1 and became the first shock elimination of 2011. Vitaly Petrov meanwhile was among the stars of the session, putting his car a superb sixth. There’s genuine pace in the Renault, and you have to feel that if Robert Kubica was fit and healthy they’d have been strong contenders for the second row. Vitaly’s effort will do for now, though.

Williams

Nightmare. Both drivers lost running FP3, with Pastor Maldonado taking a trip in to the gravel and Rubens Barrichello suffering mechanical problems. They made it through to Q2 only for Rubens to drop his car early in the session, ending his day in the turn 3 gravel and consigning him to 17th on the grid. For Maldonado it was 15th and mid-grid obscurity, but you have to feel he’ll be happy enough with this in his first F1 qualifying session.

Force India

Massive respect to Paul di Resta, who begins life as an F1 driver by out-qualiftying team-mate AdrianSutil, a veteran four seasons. Paul lines up 14th on the grid – pretty much what you’d have predicted for his pre-qualifying. Sutil meanwhile provided one of the moments of qualy by pirouetting in a plume of tyre smoke whilst completing a lap in Q2. For him 16th on the grid – and behind his rookie stablemate – simply isn’t good enough. He’ll need to up his game.

Sauber

Kamui Kobayashi – mega, mega, mega. Let’s not mess about, he is the best Formula One driver ever to come out of Japan. Mad fast in Q1, faster in Q2, Kamui starts the race ninth, the highest-placed driver from outside the ‘big five’ teams. He’s on for strong points tomorrow and yet more fawning praise from Badger. Team-mate Sergio Perez meanwhile was blighted by a hydraulics problem in FP3, costing his valuable track time, but came back to qualify 13th, the highest-placed rookie. Overall a great day for the Swiss team.

 

Photo: Sauber Media

Toro Rosso

In the battle for survival that is the 2001 Toro Rosso team it’s one-nil to Sebastien Buemi, who did a cracking job to make it in to Q3. That the Swiss driver was the slowest man in that session matters not – he was one of the top achievers today. Team-mate Jaime Alguersuari was decent enough, taking 12th, but will be disappointed to have qualified behind Buemi.

Photo: Red Bull Media/Clive Mason/Getty Images

Lotus

Lotus will be disappointed to have begun the new season exactly where they ended 2010, with hopes having been high at the Norfolk-based team that they could be mixing it with the midfeld runners this year. This is becoming a bit of a theme, isn’t it, team and teams starting this year where they left it in Abu Dhabi? What happened to the days of massive performance improvements/drop-offs over the winter? This just feels like an extension of 2010. Oh yeah, Lotus – Heikki out-qualified Jarno, but the Italian will feel pretty safe in his drive anyway following Karun Chandhok’s miserable start to life with the team.

Photo: Team Lotus

Hispania

That either of their cars even took to the track was, in the end, something of a miracle. Karthikeyan’s first lap was a full 12 seconds off the pace which, if you want to look at it in a positive way, gave him plenty of growing room. Liuzzi meanwhile was shedding bits of his F111 on the straight, the loon, eventually ending up two seconds shy of nearest rival Jerome d’Ambrosio. Perhaps he’ll take solace in the fact that he was much faster than his team-mate, but ultimately that didn’t get him on to the grid. The end could well be nigh for the Spanish team.

Photo: HRT F1 Media

Virgin

Ultimately Virgin will be pleased to have got both cars on to the grid, albeit as the slowest two runners to get within 107% of pole. We knew Timo Glock would get the job done – the man’s a pro – but there were worries over newboy d’Ambrosio. He managed to sneak in and will make his F1 debut tomorrow. Plenty of work to be done here, but a race distance of running will be a good base to start the recovery from.