Lewis Hamilton will start his Formula 1 title defence from the front of the grid after taking pole position for the Australian Grand Prix on Saturday, beating Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas in the final stage of qualifying.
Hamilton secured pole after making up almost half a second on Bottas with his final Q3 lap, turning in a best time of 1m20.486s to head up a front row lock-out for Mercedes.
It marks Hamilton’s sixth consecutive pole position in Australia, and is his eighth at the Albert Park circuit, equalling Michael Schumacher’s record for the most poles at a single circuit.
Bottas had been poised to spring an upset on his teammate and score his first pole in Australia after leading the opening Q3 runs, but could not improve on his final lap, leaving him 0.112 seconds shy in the final standings.
Despite high hopes after pre-season testing, Ferrari failed to put up a serious fight to Mercedes in qualifying as Sebastian Vettel finished over seven-tenths of a second behind in third place. Teammate Charles Leclerc will make his first Ferrari start from P5 on the grid, slipping a further two-tenths off the pace.
Max Verstappen managed to break up the Mercedes-Ferrari dominance on the front two rows as he took fourth for Red Bull, marking a solid start to the team’s partnership with new engine partner Honda.
Haas made good on its impressive practice pace as Romain Grosjeanand Kevin Magnussen qualified sixth and seventh respectively, while Lando Norris starred in his first F1 qualifying session to take eighth for McLaren. It marks the best qualifying performance by a driver on debut since Carlos Sainz Jr. lined up P8 in 2015 for Toro Rosso.
Kimi Raikkonen will start ninth on Sunday for Alfa Romeo ahead of Racing Point’s Sergio Perez, who completed the top 10.
Home favourite Daniel Ricciardo will line up 12th on the grid as Renault failed to get either of its cars through to Q3. Ricciardo finished half a tenth off a place in the top 10, with teammate Nico Hulkenberg missing out by an even finer margin in 11th.
Alexander Albon managed to outqualify Toro Rosso teammate Daniil Kvyat in his maiden F1 qualifying outing, taking 13th, with Kvyat propping up the Q2 order in P15. The duo was split by Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi, who was unable to follow teammate Raikkonen’s lead through to Q3.
Red Bull paid the price for not sending Pierre Gasly out for a late lap in Q1 as the Frenchman was eliminated in 17th as massive time gains throughout the field shook up the order late on.
Lance Stroll was one of the first drivers to set his final Q1 time and provisionally sat eighth, only to be shuffled down to 16th through a flurry of improvements. Carlos Sainz Jr.’s maiden qualifying outing for McLaren saw him finish a lowly 18th, one-tenth of a second off a place in Q2 after losing time on his final qualifying lap when he came across a slow-moving Robert Kubica, who suffered a puncture after brushing the wall at Turn 10.
Kubica and Williams teammate George Russell filled out the final row of the grid as expected, with Russell finishing P19, 1.3 seconds adrift from the rest of the field. Kubica qualified last for the first time in his F1 career, a further 1.7 seconds behind.
The Australian Grand Prix will begin tomorrow, March 17th at 07:10 AM.
Foto-credit: Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport F1