AUS­TRALIAN GP QUAL­I­FY­ING

F1 Racing (UK) - - INSIDER -

Nico out­qual­i­fied Lewis 12-7 in 2014, although it wasn’t al­ways clear cut. In Abu Dhabi, for in­stance, where he needed only points (rather than the win), Lewis clearly backed away a lit­tle. Still, though, there was a pat­tern – and an ob­vi­ous mes­sage: had Lewis se­cured more pole po­si­tions he would per­haps have won even more races. True, he out­raced Nico 11-5 and, of course, se­cured the 2014 cham­pi­onship in that fi­nal race of the sea­son. But 2015 would be another story. Lewis couldn’t as­sume that things would again fall his way. He needed to cover all the bases.

Thus his work for the win­ter was clear: he needed to im­prove his con­sis­tency in qual­i­fy­ing. That meant elim­i­nat­ing the mis­takes that cost him, for ex­am­ple, pole po­si­tion in Aus­tria. Easy to say; more dif­fi­cult to ex­e­cute.

Many driv­ers face this is­sue by leav­ing slightly more mar­gin. They’re un­aware of do­ing so, but the stop­watch tells the story. Alain Prost was one good ex­am­ple; Kimi Räikkö­nen is another. Go­ing into 2015, the big ques­tion was how Lewis was go­ing to ap­proach Q3. Would he, too, give him­self a few ex­tra mil­lime­tres in which to work?

Fri­day in Mel­bourne was all Nico Ros­berg. Lewis didn’t seem com­pletely at home in the new W06; he locked up the in­side-front a cou­ple of times and ran wide as the track slowly picked up grip. By the end, he was a tenth be­hind Nico.

Satur­day morn­ing con­tin­ued the pat­tern. Lewis again made mis­takes. He was quick­est, but it was in­con­clu­sive. Nico found traf­fic; Seb Vet­tel was sec­ond fastest in the Fer­rari. For qual­i­fy­ing, all bets were off.

Lewis, though, was breath­tak­ing. In Q1 he was 0.4s quicker than Nico (who was P2). In Q2, the mar­gin was 0.2s. Then, in Q3, Lewis drove as quick and com­posed a lap as you’ll ever see this side of to­tal per­fec­tion. Mar­gin? The only mar­gin that mat­tered was Lewis’s 0.6s gap over Nico…

Lewis’s new sys­tem was sud­denly clear: make your mis­takes – but make ’em when it doesn’t count – on Fri­days, on Satur­day morn­ings. Chill. Re­lax. Prove noth­ing.

And then, for qual­i­fy­ing and the race, just be your­self. Be Lewis. So it was that the pat­tern was set.

ACE QUAL­I­FIER

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