Lewis Hamilton will start his 2017 campaign with pole position for the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.
Hamilton set a new Albert Park Circuit track record time of 1:22.188s to claim the top spot. Ferrari confirmed their morning pace as Sebastian Vettel took second place alongside the Mercedes on the front row.
Local favourite Daniel Ricciardo broke hearts when he triggered a seven-minute red flag in Q3. He spun off before completing his timed lap, backing the Red Bull into the barriers at turn 14.
Q3 had started under stormy clouds and falling temperatures, with the threat of rain closing on the circuit. That meant everyone was especially eager to put in a banker lap in case conditions deteriorated. Valtteri Bottas was the first to put in a flying lap but he was almost immediately bumped off provisional pole by two thousandths of a second by Vettel.
Hamilton then claimed the top spot by a full three tenths before Ricciardo’s spin paused proceedings. When the session restarted the threat of rain had receded, allowing everyone a chance to improve their times.
Bottas was able to improve his time and displace Hamilton from the top spot by 0.015s but the three-time world champion immediately reasserted his former advantage to claim the first pole of the season. Bottas was subsequently demoted to third place by a last minute flier by Vettel.
Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen was unable to break into the top four with his final run, meaning he will start alongside Max Verstappen in the second Red Bull. Rounding out the rest of the top ten were Roman Grosjean (Haas), Felipe Massa (Williams), the two Toro Rossos of Carlos Sainz and Daniil Kvyat.
Ricciardo was tenth but may lose grid positions if the damage to his car is too severe.
Five different teams eliminated in Q1
With Manor no longer competing in Formula 1 and the grid down to 20 cars, five had earlier been eliminated at the end of a dry Q1. Unusually, the quintet came from five different teams.
Renault’s Jolyon Palmer and Williams’ Lance Stroll were late out on track and lost running time. Both had been involved in practice accidents earlier in the weekend, and as a result will start from the back row of the grid.
Stoffel Vandoorne’s suffered a fuel flow issue on his first flying lap and was recalled to pit lane. When he came back out, the McLaren struggled to get its tyres up to speed and could only manage 18th by the end of the session.
Haas’ Kevin Magnussen also failed to progress after running wide into the gravel on his flying lap. Sauber’s super-sub Antonio Giovinazzi was also eliminated after a mistake on his last lap, which denied him the chance to qualify ahead of team mate Marcus Ericsson.
Ericsson was slowest of anyone in Q2, putting him into 15th place on the grid at the end of the second round. Also eliminated at this stage were the two Force India cars with Esteban Ocon qualifying in 14th and Sergio Perez just missing out in 11th after being held up by Massa in traffic.
Fernando Alonso made it through to Q2 and overcame a brief issue with his power unit to claim a provisional 13th place on the grid. Renault new boy Nico Hulkenberg also failed to make the cut at the end of Q2 and will start from 12th place.
GALLERY: all the pics from Saturday’s action
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