Rookies impress at Australian GP qualifying

Sat Mar 14, 2015 7:00am EDT
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By Julian Linden

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - The three rookie drivers who took part in qualifying for the Formula One season-opening Australian Grand Prix all enjoyed successful debuts on Saturday, safely booking spots in the middle of the pack at Albert Park.

Spaniard Carlos Sainz, whose father and namesake was a double world rally champion in the 1990s, was the pick of the trio, qualifying eighth in his Toro Rosso for Sunday's race.

His 17-year-old Dutch team mate Max Verstappen, who will become the youngest driver to start a Formula One race, was 12th, while Brazil's Felipe Nasr was sandwiched between the pair in 11th after a roller-coaster day with his Sauber team.

Nasr, 22, was only confirmed as a starter after Giedo van der Garde dropped his legal action against Sauber, allowing the team to race this weekend.

There were no such concerns for Toro Rosso, whose rookies both qualified ahead of Red Bull's Daniil Kvyat and the two McLarens.

"I feel very comfortable in the car, I'm really enjoying myself a lot. It's difficult to know what to expect tomorrow, as it will be my first race, but I'm looking forward to it," said Sainz, whose father was watching trackside.

"It will surely be a bit of an adventure but this is what I've been preparing myself for the whole winter and I feel ready."

Verstappen, who has hogged the team spotlight in the build-up to the race, was fourth fastest after the first stage of qualifying but slipped back to 12th after the second phase following a small mistake.   Continued...