“It looked easy,Seb,” said an inquisitive English journalist after Sebastian Vettel had mastered the damp and blustery conditions at Albert Park to seize pole here for the third time and for the 37th time in his Formula 1 career.
“Well then, you should do it next time!” was the World Champion’s retort. “Definitely not easy in these conditions,” he said firmly.
“I had two good runs, one on inters, one on dry tyres and on the dries I got into the groove. The car felt very similar in balance to what I had on Friday so I was happy and ready to push in the lap.
“It was tricky to find the limit in these conditions, especially around the fast bit, turns11-12, where it was still a bit wet. All in all, I was pretty happy with the lap. As soon as I got confirmation that it was enough I pulled in to save the tyres.”
Mark Webber grabbed his second front-row starting point for his home race and said simply: “I’m ready, the team’s ready and we’re looking forward to it.”
Webber’s main concern is the question-mark over Pirelli’s 2013 tyres and how they will stand up to the torture of lengthy stints in Grand Prix conditions – especially when Melbourne’s capricious weather has meant the teams have been running in conditions similar to the cool Barcelona tests.
“There’s got to be some calls made today on tyres and strategy,” said the nine-time Grand Prix winner. “We’ll see how the balance of the cars is – it’s going to be a tight Grand Prix but also it’s so early in the Championship for all of us on these tyres, working out how we’re going to execute a long Grand Prix.
“It [the new Pirelli tyres] is a product which is very, very challenging for us – there are periods where the tyre isn’t strong enough to handle the lap times a Formula 1 car can do. It’s really us understanding how we can get the most out of a short run, then a long run. We will learn more today then pass the information on to Pirelli and maybe they can learn a bit more as well.”
As for the revamped schedule, Webber, as always, took it in his stride.
“You’ve just got to take the moments as they are and take what’s thrown at you,” he shrugged. “Last night you regrouped very quickly but knowing that you’ve got a big day today, coming here a lot earlier than normal for a race weekend. Things have to be shuffled around a lot in terms of procedure in the garage and driver prep – it’s really just like a Friday today but it counts!”
A delighted Lewis Hamilton revelled in what could be called a surprising second-row start for Mercedes in his first race weekend with the team, especially after sustaining rear wing damage in a minor ‘off’ in Q1 yesterday.
“The guys did a fantastic job to get us out on time,” said the 2008 Melbourne winner. “It was very tricky out there, but I’m very happy we got the job done. I said yesterday it was a blessing that they’d moved it to today and it really worked.”