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Hamilton heads all-McLaren front row



31 MAR - 03 APR 2016

McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton grabbed pole position for the Formula One Qantas Australian Grand Prix after a searing lap in qualifying at Albert Park on Saturday afternoon.

The 27-year-old Briton recorded a lap of 1min 24.992secs to edge teammate Jenson Button by 0.152secs for an all-McLaren front row – the first time the two world champions have monopolised the front row together at McLaren.

The pole was the 20th of Hamilton’s career in his 91st race, and was his first since the Korean Grand Prix of 2011, the only race last season where a Red Bull wasn’t on pole.

Lotus showed its pre-season pace was legitimate when Frenchman Romain Grosjean upstaged several of the biggest names in the sport to finish third, three-tenths of a second behind Hamilton’s benchmark time in a superb return to the sport for the 2011 GP2 champion, who competed in seven races for Renault in 2009.

Michael Schumacher was fourth for Mercedes, while Australian Mark Webber elected to complete just one timed lap in the final part of qualifying and finished fifth, one place ahead of teammate and reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel, as the Red Bull duo were seven-tenths of a second shy of Hamilton’s searing pace.

Nico Rosberg of Mercedes, Pastor Maldonado of Williams, Nico Hulkenberg of Sahara Force India and Australian Daniel Ricciardo from Scuderia Toro Rosso rounded out the top 10, Ricciardo’s effort to qualify inside the top 10 for the first time at his home Grand Prix another highlight.

While there were smiles at McLaren after a dominant 1-2, faces were longer at Ferrari, with the famed Italian team seeing both cars eliminated in the second part of the session. Fernando Alonso speared off the road at Turn 1 and beached the car in the gravel, eventually ending up 12th, while under-pressure teammate Felipe Massa was a lowly 16th.

Returning 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen was the shock elimination after the opening 20-minute part of qualifying for Lotus.

The Finn had a lurid moment at Turn 12 on his final flying lap on the slower medium-compound Pirelli rubber. The 2007 Melbourne winner will start Sunday’s Grand Prix from 18th place.

Alonso’s spin in Q2 caused a five-minute delay to retrieve his car, and when the session re-started, the Mercedes duo of Rosberg and Schumacher led the charge.

Ricciardo scraped into Q3 by one-tenth of a second from debutant teammate Jean-Eric Vergne as just nine-tenths of a second covered the top 10 in Q2.

Hamilton needed just one lap in the final part of qualifying to set the fastest time of the weekend with five minutes remaining, and Webber was his closest challenger as the session entered its final minute.

Schumacher, Grosjean and Button then slotted in behind Hamilton, and Vettel’s last lap was good for just sixth as McLaren celebrated a superb start to the season.

Behind the British duo, Grosjean’s effort to finish third on his first visit to the Albert Park circuit was an outstanding performance, while Red Bull will be scratching their heads to discover why their prodigious pre-season pace translated to just the third row of the grid.

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