Melbourne, March 17 (IANS) McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton claimed pole position in the eventful qualifying session of the season opening Australian Grand Prix here Saturday. Nico Hulkenberg of Sahara Force India was ninth fastest while HRT’s Narain Karthikeyan could miss Sunday’s race after failing to record the qualifying time.
It was a dream start for the McLaren team with Hamilton and Jenson Button settling the front row. Hamilton’s fastest lap was 1:24.922 while Button’s was 1:25.074, ahead of Romain Grosjean, who finished a surprise third in his Lotus with 1:25.302. Mercedes’ Michael Schumacher was fourth on 1:25.336.
The session threw a lot of unexpected results with teams getting an idea of each others’ performance for the first time.
Defending champion Sebastian Vettel came up with the sixth fastest time of 1:25.668, his worst qualifying show since he took the same place in the Italian Grand Prix of 2010. His Red Bull teammate Mark Webber came fifth at 1:25.651. It was a disappointing return to F1 for Kimi Raikkonen as he was knocked out of the session in Q1 with 18th place.
The Ferrari’s of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa will start the 58-lap race on 12th and 16th position after the Spaniard mustered 1:26.494 with the Brazilian finishing a second slower than his teammate.
It was a satisfying result for Force India’s Hulkenberg, who is back to full-time race after a stint with the Williams in 2010. The German’s best lap in Q3 was 1:26.451 while his teammate Paul di Resta managed 1:27.086 in Q2 for 15th place.
It was repeat of last year for HRT whose drivers Karthikeyan and Pedro de la Rosa failed to beat the 107 percent time in Q1. Their participation in the race will be at the discretion of the stewards.