Melbourne: Mercedes world champion Lewis Hamilton produced a sizzling final lap to grab pole position for the season-opening Australian Formula One Grand Prix here on Saturday.
The four-time world champion knocked out his rivals with a blistering time of one minute 21.164 seconds to claim his 73rd career pole.
The Ferrari duo Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel finished second and third with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in fourth.
Hamilton delivered a special flying lap to put a stunning 0.664sec gap on Raikkonen and clinch the pole for Sunday’s opening race of the season.
His blistering pace shows he will be the one to beat and helped offset a spectacular crash of his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas early in the final shootout.
Bottas’ crash brought out the red flag to halt Q1 after he ran wide on turn two and slammed into the wall, dislodging a wheel in the collision.
He was uninjured and was taken back to the pits in the course car.
The shunt tore the rear wing from the car and destroyed the right-side suspension, leaving a massive overnight repair job for the Mercedes crew.
Vettel topped Q2 in 1:21.944 from Hamilton and Bottas.
Verstappen and Australian Daniel Ricciardo both ran supersoft tyres in a potential alternative strategy move from Red Bull.
McLaren’s Fernando Alonso was a major casualty in Q2, finishing 11th fastest and missing out to Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg.
Others to miss out in Q2 were Alonso’s teammate Stoffel Vandoorne, Sergio Perez, Lance Stroll and Esteban Ocon.
Hamilton topped Q3 with 1:22.824 ahead of Ferrari’s Raikkonen and Vettel.
Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson was among those who failed to get out of Q1 along with Brendon Hartley, Charles Leclerc, Sergey Sirotkin and Pierre Gasly. (PTI)