Living up to their pre-season testing form Liverpool have locked out the front row of the grid ahead of the race. The closest competitors behind them are - as expected - Franklin and Rossi, with Peugeot not too far back. Strategy will surely play a key part in the race.
Looking at the grid, it shows that the pecking order as predicted by Gary Anderson was relatively accurate, with the Liverpool cars - as expected - showing up very well to take 1st and 2nd, and, as seen from testing, Adrien Simon was rather more comfortable than Beckenbauer, though both look quick. In testing there was very little to separate Franklin, Rossi and Peugeot, and on this track at least, it looks like the Franklin has the better pace, taking 3rd with Will Hoskins and 6th for Ruiz, which is a really good performance. In Australia they are Liverpool's closest challengers for the race win, and will be waiting to pounce if there ware any mishaps for the Vauxhall works team. Rossi looked quick in the hands of Giodano, fourth is a strong suggestion they are going to be battling for wins and podiums. Domenicalli however was far less comfortable, 10th place being the best effort he could muster. Peugeot took 5th and 8th with Ellington and Abott respectively, which is a very good performance for them, they look good around here.
The hotly contested midfield has been the hardest to predict so far, and here that is no different. Ingram looked to be perhaps be the 'best of the rest' but 14th for Milkovich and a disappointing 23rd for Campos suggests that the street circuit nature of the Albert Park track may be at odds with the handling of their car. Downton started testing slowly, but by the end were looking very capable, and 7th for Thunder is perfect evidence of that, while the champion Nathaniel Powers only managed 13th, though it is widely known by now that his single lap pace isn't as strong as his race pace. Lucas GP are doing well so far, Carson Davenport was 9th fastest, while his team mate was slower, Jonah Phipps only managing 15th place. Points must be the aim for these drivers and teams. Westwood have had mixed results much like the other teams, with Kinnumen an impressive 11th, but Boston a slightly deflating 20th. This performance could cause concern, as it will for all of the other teams experiencing such varied results, as, although it is equally easy to get to the front of this pack, it would be very easy to fall behind. Fun were probably slightly disappointed, with 17th for Agostino and 21st for Dwyer, which could suggest Fun have already fallen towards the back, and hard work is needed to get back on terms with the midfield order.
The preseason has been largely dominated by the struggles of Team 23. Jean Mattson has shown some promise, getting 12th place for the Dutch team, but Wagner has continued to struggle, only taking 19th place. This team must keep working hard, and the closeness of the midfield could yet play into their favour, as if they can develop at the same pace as last year, they will be towards the front in no time.
Finally, both new teams have been impressive. Force Australia took 22nd and 24th, but the car looks sorted pretty quickly, so I am very impressed by their excellent progress. However the surprise of qualifying had to be how good the Warrior team looked. Michal Kubat took 16th in his first ever qualifying session, while James Harding wasn't far behind in 18th. This team look to have got into the midfield battle already, so it will be interesting to see how they cope with the pressures of balancing research and development to get even further up the field.
Well, the grid is set, and the race is poised to be a memorable one, with many subplots and questions to be answered. Join us tomorrow for the race, and all the reaction afterwards!