Lewis Hamilton stormed to pole position for Mercedes in a rain-drenched first qualifying session of the year in Melbourne, but it was Daniel Ricciardo who stole the show as he claimed the first front row start of his career.
Hamilton snatched the top spot in the dying seconds of Q3 from Ricciardo by just three tenths of a second, the Red Bull man having delighted the crowd by claiming provisional pole just moments earlier, as he starred on his Red Bull debut.
Nico Rosberg, who was quickest after the initial runs in Q3, will line-up third alongside McLaren rookie Kevin Magnussen, who stormed to an impressive spot on the second row, having opted, like Rsoberg, for the wet tyres for his final run.
Fernando Alonso was just seven hundredths shy of the Dane in fifth, as the top Ferrari in qualifying, while Jean-Eric Vergne rounded out the top six for Toro Rosso, two spots ahead of his rookie team-mate Daniil Kvyat, the Russian a fine eighth in his first Formula One qualifying session, despite a minor off late in Q3.
After such a positive pre-season, Williams will be disappointed to be just ninth and tenth, Felipe Massa ahead of his team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who will take a five place grid penalty as a result of a gearbox change following FP3.
Jenson Button, Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel were all eliminated in Q2, the four-time champion failing to improve after a late crash for the Ferrari man, coming out of turn four, brought out the yellow flags, scuppering the German’s final flying lap.
Adrian Sutil, Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez were the other victims of Q2.
Max Chilton missed out on a spot in the second part of qualifying by a mere three tenths of a second for Marussia, but out-qualified his team-mate Jules Bianchi for just the third time in over a year – the Frenchman four tenths shy in 18th.
Esteban Gutierrez, who will take a five-place grid penalty as a result of a gearbox change, ended the session in 19th, three tenths faster than Marcus Ericsson, making his debut this weekend, in the second Caterham.
Lotus had a disastrous day, as Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado propped up the time sheets as both struggled with the troublesome E22, the Venezuelan making two off track excursions in the course of a single lap as the rain came down in Q1.
Australian Grand Prix – Qualifying – Classification
1. Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes – 1m44.231s
2. Daniel Ricciardo – Red Bull-Renault – 1:44.548 +0.317s
3. Nico Rosberg – Mercedes – 1:44.595 +0.364s
4. Kevin Magnussen – McLaren-Mercedes – 1:45.745 +1.514s
5. Fernando Alonso – Ferrari – 1:45.819 +1.588s
6. Jean-Eric Vergne – Toro Rosso-Renault – 1:45.864 +1.633s
7. Nico Hulkenberg – Force India-Mercedes – 1:46.030 +1.799s
8. Daniil Kvyat – Toro Rosso-Renault – 1:47.360 +3.129s
9. Felipe Massa – Williams-Mercedes – 1:48.079 +3.848s
10. Valtteri Bottas – Williams-Mercedes – 1:48.147 +3.916s
11. Jenson Button – McLaren-Mercedes – 1:44.437 +2.173s
12. Kimi Raikkonen – Ferrari – 1:44.494 +2.230s
13. Sebastian Vettel – Red Bull-Renault – 1:44.668 +2.404s
14. Adrian Sutil – Sauber-Ferrari – 1:45.655 +3.391s
15. Kamui Kobayashi – Caterham-Renault – 1:45.867 +3.603s
16. Sergio Perez – Force India-Mercedes – 1:47.293 +5.029s
17. Max Chilton – Marussia-Ferrari – 1:34.293 +4.118s
18. Jules Bianchi – Marussia-Ferrari – 1:34.794 +4.619s
19. Esteban Gutierrez – Sauber-Ferrari – 1:35.117 +4.942s
20. Marcus Ericsson – Caterham-Renault – 1:35.157 +4.982s
21. Romain Grosjean – Lotus-Renault – 1:36.993 +6.818s
22. Pastor Maldonado – Lotus-Renault – No time set
Image courtesy of Mercedes AMG PETRONAS