Mercedes driver to start from the front while reigning World Champion Sebastian Vettel failed even to reach the final qualifying shoot-out
Melbourne: Lewis Hamilton snatched pole position from home favourite Daniel Ricciardo in the dying seconds of a thrilling Australian Grand Prix qualifying session on Saturday, as world champ Sebastian Vettel failed to make the top 10.
Australian GP pole position winner Lewis Hamilton (centre) of Mercedes with teammate Nico Rosberg (left) and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo after the qualifying session in Melbourne on Saturday
Australia's Ricciardo, embarking on his first race with Red Bull, stormed to the top of the field on his last run, before he was trumped by Mercedes' Hamilton in a flying final lap in treacherous wet conditions.
The 2008 world champion's German teammate, Nico Rosberg, placed third, with McLaren rookie Kevin Magnussen fourth and Ferrari's Fernando Alonso fifth in the season's first qualifying session.
But there was a sensational miss for Vettel, seeking his fifth straight world title and record 10th consecutive race win, who failed even to reach the final qualifying shoot-out and will start from 12th.
Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton speeds across the Albert Park track in Melbourne during qualifying for the Australian GP on Saturday. Pics/AFP
Hamilton's Q3 time of 1min 44.231sec, three-tenths better than Ricciardo, gave him his third Melbourne pole and the 32nd of his career, equalling the total reached by fellow Briton and ex-world champion Nigel Mansell.
"It's been an interesting weekend and today made it so much more harder for everyone with the conditions. But I'm really happy with what the team did. These new cars are a lot harder to drive in the wet — it was the first time for me driving in the wet (in the new car) so it was a serious challenge today," Hamilton said.
Vettel had been struggling in his Red Bull car, slow to adapt to a raft of technical changes, and he was held up in Q2 after Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen hit a wall and yellow flags ordered drivers to slow down. "It was tricky conditions, we had more problems today than we had yesterday," Vettel said.