Sun, Mar 18, 2012 - Page 20 News List

F1: Hamilton, Button snatch front row for McLaren

Reuters, MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA

British driver Lewis Hamilton exits a turn in his McLaren Mercedes during qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne yesterday.

Photo: EPA

McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton took pole position for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix yesterday ahead of teammate Jenson Button as world champion Sebastian Vettel was banished to the third row of the grid.

Hamilton’s best lap of 1 minute, 24.922 seconds put him just ahead of compatriot and fellow former world champion Button, who was second quickest in 1 minute, 25.074 seconds and will make up an all-McLaren front row for the first time since 2009.

French driver Romain Grosjean sprung the biggest surprise by steering his Lotus to the third-fastest lap and he will line up alongside the Mercedes of seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher on the second row.

Vettel, who claimed a record 15 pole positions last season, including on his way to victory at Albert Park, was sixth fastest just behind his Red Bull teammate and Australia’s great hope Mark Webber in fifth.

It was a major setback for a team that took 18 poles in 19 races last year and today will mark the first time they will not have a driver on the front row since the 2010 Italian Grand Prix at Monza.

Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg and Pastor Maldonado of Williams will be on the fourth row of the grid after finishing seventh and eighth quickest.

Ferrari’s problems continued with both cars failing to reach the final round of qualifying.

Former world champion Fernando Alonso spun off into the gravel in the second session while running fifth fastest and will line up 12th on the grid, while Brazialian Felipe Massa’s miserable run of form continued with the 16th-fastest time.

Another former world champion, Kimi Raikkonen, failed to get through the first phase of qualifying on his return to Formula One after two years away.

The 32-year-old Finn lost control of his Lotus on a corner on his final flying lap and will line up in 18th place on the ninth row of the grid for today’s race, barring any penalties for other drivers.

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