Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton claimed the first pole position of the 2017 Formula 1 season ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who gave the Scuderia its first front row start since the 2015 Singapore Grand Prix.
On an overcast day at Albert Park, Hamilton, who was 0.49s slower than Vettel in Saturday’s earlier FP3 session, set a best time of 1m22.188s in Q3 to take his sixth pole at the Australian Grand Prix and the 62nd pole of his F1 career.
Vettel ended up 0.268s adrift of Hamilton, but he did beat the second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas, by 0.025s, with Kimi Raikkonen fourth in the second Ferrari.
Speaking after the session, Hamilton said: “It’s been a fantastic weekend so far and it’s quite amazing to come here for the 11th time – it feels like it was only yesterday that I came and had my first race here in 2007.
“I’m so proud of our team. This rule change has been huge and such a massive challenge for everyone and the guys have just worked so hard to make this car what it is today. Valtteri did a fantastic job being that this is his first qualifying session representing the team; he’s done a great job. It’s great for us and Mercedes.
“I’m looking forward to the race – it’s close between us all. As you can see, there’s going to be a tight race this year.”
Max Verstappen will start fifth for Red Bull, ahead of Haas F1’s Romain Grosjean and Williams driver Felipe Massa. Carlos Sainz qualified eighth in front of his Toro Rosso team-mate Daniil Kvyat.
Home favourite Daniel Ricciardo ended up 10th without a time in Q3 after he lost the rear of his Red Bull going through Turn 14 on his first run and crashed into the barriers at the exit of the corner, heavily damaging the back end of the RB13.
In Q2, Sergio Perez couldn’t match the late improvement of Grosjean and ended up 11th, but he was at least 0.01s ahead of his former team-mate Nico Hulkenberg, who will start 12th for Renault.
Fernando Alonso said he “cannot do more than this” following McLaren’s difficult period of pre-season testing and ultimately qualified 13th, with Esteban Ocon and Marcus Ericsson in 14th and 15th for Force India and Sauber.
In Q1, Antonio Giovinazzi, who will make his F1 debut for Sauber this weekend in place of Pascal Wehrlein after the German driver informed his team that he had concerns over his fitness levels after being injured at the Race of Champions event in January, ended up 16th after locking up at Turn 15 on his final lap when it looked like he would improve and put Ericsson under pressure.
Kevin Magnussen made a surprise exit in the first segment of the session for Haas F1 and he will start 17th in his first race for the American squad, one place ahead of the second McLaren of Stoffel Vandoorne, who overcame a fuel flow issue but qualified down in 18th on his maiden appearance at Albert Park.
Lance Stroll finished 19th, but he will start last, ahead of Renault’s Jolyon Palmer, who set the slowest time in Q1, after Williams was forced to change the Canadian rookie’s gearbox following his crash at the end of FP3.
Australian Grand Prix qualifying results:
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m22.188s
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m22.456s +0.268s
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m22.481s +0.293s
4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m23.033s +0.845s
5 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1m23.485s +1.297s
6 Romain Grosjean Haas F1 1m24.074s +1.886s
7 Felipe Massa Williams 1m24.443s +2.255s
8 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1m24.487s +2.299s
9 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1m24.512s +2.324s
10 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull No time set
11 Sergio Perez Force India 1m25.081s
12 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1m25.091s
13 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1m25.425s
14 Esteban Ocon Force India 1m25.568s
15 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1m26.465s
16 Antonio Giovinazzi Sauber 1m26.419s
17 Kevin Magnussen Haas F1 1m26.847s
18 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 1m26.858s
19 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1m28.244s
20 Lance Stroll Williams 1m27.143s
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