LEWIS HAMILTON LED a McLaren one-two Saturday by claiming the pole position for Formula One’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix.
Hamilton qualified in 1 minute, 24.922 seconds around the Albert Park circuit, one-tenth of a second ahead of teammate Jenson Button, while Lotus’ Romain Grosjean was a surprise third.
Mercedes’ Michael Schumacher qualified fourth, ahead of the Red Bull pair of Mark Webber and reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel.
It was a dismal day for Ferrari, with Fernando Alonso spinning off into a gravel trap early in session two and qualifying in 12th place, while Felipe Massa fared even worse, qualifying 16th.
Comeback driver Kimi Raikkonen also disappointed, qualifying 18th for Lotus.
Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg qualified seventh, Williams’ Pastor Maldonado an impressive eighth, Nico Hulkenberg was ninth for Force India and Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo rounded out the top 10.
Hamilton’s pole was the 20th of his career, making him the 13th man in F1 history to reach that mark and moving him even with Alonso and Damon Hill on the all-time list. It was also the first all-McLaren front row since 2009.
“It’s a fantastic feeling to be back here, and it’s an incredible start to the season,” Hamilton said. “It was a tremendous job from the team to get us to this point. We’ve had a couple of tough years, but we never seem to give up.”
Four of the past five winners in Melbourne have started from pole position, boosting Hamilton’s hopes going into Sunday’s race.
Button said he was “quite surprised” by the gap of about two-thirds of a second back to the Red Bulls after Vettel dominated last season.
“Red Bull are always competitive, we should never forget that, but we are going to enjoy this and hope we have a great race,” Button said.
Grosjean’s third place was the shock result in his first time at the Albert Park circuit. The Frenchman was expected to spend the season in the shadow of Raikkonen, but the 2011 GP2 champion showed he had put behind him his troubled time in F1 in 2009.
“A few people believed in me in the toughest times and today I am back almost at the top,” Grosjean said.