Hamilton revels in claiming Mercedes’ 100th pole (VIDEO)

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Lewis Hamilton has expressed his happiness with the Mercedes W05 car after claiming pole position for the Australian Grand Prix on Saturday.

Hamilton was an ever-present force throughout qualifying at Albert Park today, and he appeared to be embroiled in a tussle with teammate Nico Rosberg for pole position in Q3 as the two drivers traded fastest lap times. However, Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo flourished in the wet conditions and appeared to have done enough to claim pole on home soil, only for Hamilton to better his lap seconds later and snatch P1 away.

“It’s the first time I’ve driven the car on the limit in the wet, but it felt great and I’m so happy with the job the team has done,” Hamilton explained. “To be on pole here today is a fantastic result for us. It was great fun and I’m really looking forward to the race tomorrow. It’s going to be tough, but we’ll do our best and see what happens.”

The result marks the 100th pole position for a Mercedes-powered car in Formula 1, and Hamilton felt some pride to have been the driver to achieve this feat.

“I am very proud to have scored pole number 100 for Mercedes-Benz in Formula 1,” he said. “I have only driven with Mercedes power since my debut in 2007 and the whole Mercedes team has done an incredible job meeting the challenge of these new rules.”

Hamilton will be chasing his second Australian Grand Prix victory on Sunday, having won the race back in his championship year of 2008. However, the Briton will be aware of a challenge from Ricciardo and Rosberg from second and third respectively, whilst the reliability of the Mercedes W05 car will also be a cause for concern following a stoppage in FP1 on Friday.

Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

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With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.