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Qualifying - Hamilton snatches pole from Ricciardo in Australia

15 Mar 2014

At the end of a sensational first qualifying session for Formula One racing’s new 1.6-litre turbo era, Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton ruined a fairy tale for Red Bull, Daniel Ricciardo and Australia by snatching pole at a wet Albert Park on Saturday afternoon. The Briton’s gamble to stay on wet tyres enabled him to deny the intermediate-shod Ricciardo what would have been a sensational maiden pole position, and in doing so equal compatriot Nigel Mansell’s tally of 32 P1 starts.

Rain was imminent when Q1 began, and soon after Ricciardo had displaced McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen for the fastest time with 1m 30.775s, rain spots quickly turned into a sharp downpour which sent everyone scurrying back to the pits and the Lotus of Pastor Maldonado off track three times on his out lap.

Kamui Kobayashi had smacked in a lap of 1m 34.274s for Caterham, and that put him into Q2, leaving Marussia’s Max Chilton on 1m 34.293s - the quickest of those who failed to get through. Chilton’s team mate Jules Bianchi did 1m 34.794s to finish ahead of Esteban Gutierrez’s Sauber on 1m 35.117s and Marcus Ericsson’s Caterham on 1m 35.157s. Romain Grosjean was still deeply unhappy in his Lotus with 1m 36.993s, as team mate Maldonado joined him at the back. Having failed to set a time, the Venezuelan will start the race at the stewards' discretion.

Q2 began wet enough for Pirelli’s intermediates and became something of a lottery as the track surface started to dry. In the end Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg was fastest from the impressive Ricciardo, with 1m 42.264s to 1m 42.295s, while a late improvement for Magnussen, which came while double yellows were out for Kimi Raikkonen who had crashed his Ferrari, saw the Dane’s team mate Jenson Button pushed down to 11th. The Englishman had lapped his McLaren in 1m 44.437s ahead of Raikkonen on 1m 44.494s. The big surprise was the man in 13th place - world champion Sebastian Vettel. He could only manage 1m 44.668s in yet another troubled session for Red Bull.

Behind the disgruntled German, Adrian Sutil took 14th for Sauber with 1m 45.655s ahead of Kobayashi who beat Force India's Sergio Perez, 1m 45.867s to 1m 47.293s.

It was wet enough for full wets in Q3 and Rosberg set the early pace before Hamilton displaced him. But once they switched to intermediates, it was Ricciardo who went back ahead, only to be beaten in turn by Hamilton (who opted to stay on wets) and then Rosberg. The German seemed to have it sewn up with 1m 44.762s but there were huge cheers from the grandstands as local favourite Ricciardo beat that with 1m 44.595s. But Red Bull’s celebrations were cut short as Hamilton reset the ante with 1m 44.231s.

Behind them, there was joy for rookie Magnussen as he took an excellent fourth for McLaren with 1m 45.745s, and for Toro Rosso with Jean-Eric Vergne sixth on 1m 45.864s and rookie Daniil Kvyat eighth on 1m 47.368s despite a late tangle with the barriers. Nico Hulkenberg split them in seventh with 1m 46.030s in the lead Force India.

Less happy was Fernando Alonso in fifth for Ferrari on 1m 45.819s, and Williams drivers Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas in ninth and 10th on 1m 48.079s and 1m 48.147s respectively.

Both Bottas and Gutierrez have five-place grid penalties for gearbox changes, so the provisional starting order will be: Hamilton and Ricciardo; Rosberg and Magnussen; Alonso and Vergne; Hulkenberg and Kvyat; Massa and Button; Raikkonen and Vettel; Sutil and Kobayashi; Bottas and Perez; Chilton and Bianchi; Ericsson and Grosjean; Gutierrez and Maldonado.