Stunning Lewis Hamilton lap beats Ferrari drivers to pole
Australian Grand Prix - Qualifying

Stunning Lewis Hamilton lap beats Ferrari drivers to pole

Lewis Hamilton turned in a thrilling late lap to take the pole position at the Australian Grand Prix by 0.66s from the Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel.

The defending champion was fastest throughout the lap but hammered home his advantage in sectors one and three, where he held margins over Raikkonen of 0.3s and 0.2s, respectively. The lap time was a full second faster than the previous track record he set during qualifying at last year's Australian Grand Prix and underlined the step in performance his Mercedes team has made over the winter.

Prior to Hamilton's hot lap, the top three had been split by 0.1s, making the speed he found on his final effort all the more impressive. Ferrari is expecting to be closer to Mercedes on race pace, however, and Red Bull also will hope to close the gap during Sunday's race.

Raikkonen finished the session 0.010s faster than teammate Vettel, who hasn't been completely at home in his Ferrari all weekend. Nevertheless, Vettel's time was still enough to keep Max Verstappen in the Red Bull at bay by 0.041s. Home hero Daniel Ricciardo was fifth fastest in qualifying but will start eighth once his grid penalty for speeding under red flags in Friday practice is factored in.

Both Red Bulls rolled the strategic dice in Q2 by setting their fastest times on the super-soft tyres, meaning they will start the race on the more durable red-striped rubber while the rest of the top 10 will start on the ultra-softs. It should allow Verstappen and Ricciardo to run longer into Sunday's race before making a pit stop, and it opens up the potential to move forward from their qualifying position via pit strategy.

The second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas was missing from the top six after he suffered a big accident at Turn 2, slamming his Mercedes against the wall. The Finn went deep in Turn 1, touched the grass with his tyres and spun out of control in the second corner. It means he will start the race 10th, but he could drop a further five places if a gearbox change is required.

Haas delivered on its preseason promise with the sixth and seventh fastest times, beating the two Renaults of Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz by roughly 0.3s. Kevin Magnussen, Romain Grosjean and Hulkenberg will move up one place ahead of Ricciardo, while Sainz will remain ninth on the grid.

McLaren failed to make the top-10 shootout after Fernando Alonso ended up 0.148s shy of Hulkenberg's time at the end of Q2. Teammate Stoffel Vandoorne finished a further 0.161s off the pace, and he will start 12th, as the MCL33 failed to match the pace of the Renaults and Haases ahead. It will be a disappointing result for the team, which is hoping join the battle at the front this year, after switching from Honda engines to Renault over the winter.

Sergio Perez qualified 13th for Force India, admitting over team radio at the end of Q2 that there is still "a lot of work to do" on the new VJM11 car. He was 0.781s faster than teammate Esteban Ocon, who found himself in 15th and behind the highest-placed Williams of Lance Stroll.

Brendon Hartley missed out on a place in Q2 by 0.029s, after admitting to a mistake on his final flying lap. The two Saubers of Marcus Ericsson and Charles Leclerc finished 17th and 18th, after they both appeared to benefit from Ferrari's fastest engine mode and closed the gap that had existed to the midfield during Friday practice. Sergey Sirotkin had to settle for 19th on his debut and was nearly half a second off Williams teammate Stroll. Toro Rosso's Pierre Gasly will start last after running wide at Turn 4 and into the gravel on his hot lap.

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